Somewhere in Europe, about 20,000 years ago, the last cave bear drew its final breath. Research now suggests that this marked an inauspicious milestone: it appears to have been the first animal driven to extinction by man.
Cave bears once roamed from the Urals to what is now northern Spain. They could weigh as much as a tonne and stood nearly six feet tall at the shoulder. During the Middle Ages their bones were thought to be dragon remains.
While larger than today’s polar bears, the cave bear was a strict vegetarian. It was previously suggested that it died out because it was a fussy eater and that it vanished when an Ice Age wiped out its food supplies.
However, a new analysis of ancient…