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Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur; they have been used for bear-baiting and other forms of entertainment, such as being made to dance.With their powerful physical presence, they play a prominent role in the arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies.Their earliest fossil representative is Plionarctos in North America (~ 10–2 Ma).This genus is probably the direct ancestor to the North American short-faced bears (genus Arctodus), the South American short-faced bears (Arctotherium), and the spectacled bears, Tremarctos, represented by both an extinct North American species (T.
Relying as they do on strength rather than speed, bears have relatively short limbs with thick bones to support their bulk.
Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere.
Bears are found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Members of the living lineages of bears diverged from Ursavus between 15 and 20 Mya, likely via the species Ursavus elmensis.
Based on genetic and morphological data, the Ailuropodinae (pandas) were the first to diverge from other living bears about 19 Mya, although no fossils of this group have been found before about 5 Mya.
With the exception of courting individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals.