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The relationships of the other species are not very well resolved, though the polar bear and the brown bear form a close grouping.
Relying as they do on strength rather than speed, bears have relatively short limbs with thick bones to support their bulk.
With the exception of courting individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals.
They may be diurnal or nocturnal and have an excellent sense of smell.
Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere.
Bears are found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
The earliest members of Ursidae belong to the extinct subfamily Amphicynodontinae, including Parictis (late Eocene to early middle Miocene, 38–18 Mya) and the slightly younger Allocyon (early Oligocene, 34–30 Mya), both from North America.A Cephalogale-like species gave rise to the genus Ursavus during the early Oligocene (30–28 Mya); this genus proliferated into many species in Asia and is ancestral to all living bears.Species of Ursavus subsequently entered North America, together with Amphicynodon and Cephalogale, during the early Miocene (21–18 Mya).In modern times, bears have come under pressure through encroachment on their habitats and illegal trade in bear parts, including the Asian bile bear market.The IUCN lists six bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even least concern species, such as the brown bear, are at risk of extirpation in certain countries.
Despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they are adept runners, climbers, and swimmers.