Dietary niche separation of three Late Pleistocene bear species from
Vancouver Island

2022.

By Cara Kubiak, Vaughan Grimes, Geert Van Biesen, Grant Keddie, Mike Buckley, Reba Macdonald, M. P. Richards.

ABSTRACT: Competition between taxa related to climate changes has been proposed as a possible factor in Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, and here we present isotope evidence of the diets of three co‐existing bear species [black bear (Ursus americanus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and the now extinct short‐faced bear (Arctodus simus)] from a locale in western North America dating to the Late (Terminal) Pleistocene (~14.5–11.7 ka). The three bear species were found at several sites on Vancouver Island, on the western coast of Canada. To examine the chronological overlap and niche partitioning between these species of bear, we used direct radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis and ZooMS proteomic identification methods. Here we present new radiocarbon evidence from Terminal Pleistocene U. americanus, U. arctos and A. simus from several sites on the island, along with both bulk collagen and compound‐specific isotope data for these species. Radiocarbon dates confirm the chronological overlap of Arctodus and both Ursus species in the montane regions of the island at the end of the Pleistocene. Stable isotope data reveal niche differentiation between these species, with U. americanus occupying a distinctly lower trophic position than the other two taxa.