The bears from Dmanisi and the first dispersal of early Homo out of Africa

Tsegai Medin, Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro*, Joan Madurell-Malapeira, Borja Figueirido, Giorgi Kopaliani, Florent Rivals, Gocha Kiladze, Paul Palmqvist, David Lordkipanidze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We report on the taxonomy and paleodiet of the bear population that inhabited the emblematic palaeoanthropological Early Pleistocene (1.8 Ma) site of Dmanisi (Georgia), based on a dual approach combining morphometrics and microwear of upper and lower teeth. Given that the teeth of Ursus etruscus Cuvier, 1823 from Dmanisi show considerable size variability, their systematic position has been debated. However, a comparative study of the coefficients of variation for tooth size measurements in several modern bear species shows that the variability in tooth size of the ursid population from Dmanisi could result from sexual dimorphism. The analysis of tooth microwear indicates that these bears inhabited a mixed environment of open plain with forest patches, where they had a browsing diet with a substantial contribution of meat and/or fish. Comparative tooth morphometric analyses of modern ursids and fossil U. etruscus indicate that this extinct species had an omnivorous behavior similar to that of extant brown bears. The ecological interactions of the Dmanisi bears with other members of the large mammals community, including the first hominins that dispersed out of Africa, are discussed in the light of this new evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17752
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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