Temporal range: Early Pleistocene-Early Holocene (Uquian-Ensenadan)
|Life restoration of Arctotherium bonariense|
†A. angustidens (Gervais & Ameghino, 1880)
Arctotherium is an extinct genus of South American short-faced bears within Ursidae of the Pleistocene. Their ancestors migrated from North America to South America during the Great American Interchange, following the formation of the Isthmus of Panama during the late Pliocene. The oldest remains are from the Ensenadan epoch within the early-middle Pleistocene 1.2 Mya. Their closest known relative is the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus).
Arctotherium was named by Hermann Burmeister in 1879. A specimen of A. angustidens from Buenos Aires shows an individual estimated, using the humerus, to weigh between 983 and 2,042 kg (2,167 and 4,502 lb), though the authors consider the upper limit as improbable and say that 1,588 to 1,749 kg (3,501 to 3,856 lb) is more likely. It is still the largest bear ever found and contender for the largest carnivorous land mammal known. This has been attributed to increased competition from other, later-arriving or evolving carnivorans, such as jaguars, lions or Smilodon, following the early dispersal of short-faced bears to South America. The North American carnivorans that invaded South America, including short-faced bears and Smilodon, quickly dominated the predatory niches formerly occupied by South America's native metatherian sparassodont and avian phorusrhacid carnivores.
Fossils of Arctotherium have been found in:
- Lujan Formation, Argentina
- Tarija and Ñuapua Formations, Bolivia
- Jandaíra Formation, Brazil
- Cueva de los Chingues, Chile
- Taima-Taima, Muaco and Cueva del Guácharo, Venezuela
- Soibelzon, L. H.; Tonni, E. P.; Bond, M. (October 2005). "The fossil record of South American short-faced bears (Ursidae, Tremarctinae)". Journal of South American Earth Sciences. 20 (1–2): 105–113. doi:10.1016/j.jsames.2005.07.005.
- Kieren J. Mitchell; Sarah C. Bray; Pere Bover; Leopoldo Soibelzon; Blaine W. Schubert; Francisco Prevosti; Alfredo Prieto; Fabiana Martin; Jeremy J. Austin & Alan Cooper (2016). "Ancient mitochondrial DNA reveals convergent evolution of giant short-faced bears (Tremarctinae) in North and South America". Biology Letters. 12 (4): 20160062. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2016.0062. PMC . PMID 27095265.
- Soibelzon, L. H.; Schubert, B. W. (January 2011). "The Largest Known Bear, Arctotherium angustidens, from the Early Pleistocene Pampean Region of Argentina: With a Discussion of Size and Diet Trends in Bears". Journal of Paleontology. Paleontological Society. 85 (1): 69–75. doi:10.1666/10-037.1. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
- Dell'Amore, C. (2011): Biggest Bear Ever Found, National Geographic News, Published February 3, 2011
- Hodge, A.-M. (2011-03-31). "Updated Range of Immensity for Arctotherium: New Record for Largest Known Bear". blogs.nature.com. Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
- Arctotherium at Fossilworks.org