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Keywords:

  • glacial refuge;
  • Last Glacial Maximum;
  • Late-Glacial;
  • Post-Glacial;
  • recolonization;
  • subfossil record

ABSTRACT

1. At the end of the Last Glacial Maximum brown bears Ursus arctos recolonized the glacial landscape of Central and Northern Europe faster than all other carnivorous mammal species of the Holocene fauna. Ursus arctos was recorded in Northern Europe from the beginning of the Late-Glacial. The recolonization of northern Central Europe may have taken place directly after the maximum glaciation. The distribution of the brown bear was restricted to glacial refugia only during the Last Glacial Maximum, for probably no more than 10 000 years.

2. Genetic analyses have suggested three glacial refugia for the brown bear: the Iberian Peninsula, the Italian Peninsula and the Balkans. Subfossil records of Ursus arctos from north-western Moldova as well as reconstructed environmental conditions during the Last Glacial Maximum in this area suggest to us a fourth glacial refuge for the brown bear. Because of its connection to the Carpathians, we designate this as the ‘Carpathian refuge’.

3. Due to the low genetic distance between brown bears of northern Norway, Finland, Estonia, north-eastern Russia and the northern Carpathians (the so-called eastern lineage), the Carpathians were considered the geographical origin of the recolonization of these regions. During the recolonization of northern Europe the brown bear probably reached these areas rapidly from the putative Carpathian refuge.