Opened in 2018, the Tavrida Cave in Crimea became famous thanks to the richest vertebrate fauna of the early Pleistocene - and to this day it brings interesting finds.
To the fossil species already identified from the cave - the giant ostrich pachistrutio, the southern elephant, rhinos, antelopes, bulls, arvernoceros deer, horses, giant camel, saber-toothed cats, short-faced giant hyena, hares, porcupine and others - were added Etruscan bears.
The investigated fragment of the facial part of the skull, stored in the Paleontological Institute. A. A. Borisyak of the Russian Academy of Sciences, restored from six large and several small fragments. Cranial and dental features allow this specimen to be identified as Ursus etruscus. Strongly worn molars indicate a significant individual age of the studied individual.
Fragment of the skull of the Etruscan bear Ursus etruscus from the Taurida cave (Crimea)
The Etruscan bear in the early Pleistocene lived in the southern regions of Europe and central Asia, is known from the locations of Italy (including Tuscany - ancient Etruria, from which the name of the bear came), Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Greece, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, China, as well as from Israel and Morocco. With its omnivorous diet and overall size, the Etruscan bear is closest to medium-sized modern brown bears.
The relationship between the Etruscan bear and later species is not entirely clear. It is believed to be at the base of a group of brown and cave bears.
This find is the first evidence of the Etruscan bear inhabiting the territory of Crimea and complements the idea of the distribution of the species in the Early Pleistocene of Eastern Europe.