Bear diet is mostly low-protein and high carbohydrate/high fat
- There are eight species of bears around the world that consume a wide range of diets.
- Polar bears, giant pandas, and sloth bears are considered specialists which seek specific foods while others are considered generalists.
- Bears evolved from a high-protein carnivore; however, researchers speculated that all have become low-protein consumers.
- Consuming foods with inappropriate nutrients has been linked to increased energy usage, lower health, lower reproductivity, and early death.
- Researchers conducted feeding and preference trials with sloth bears and giant pandas, an ant-feeding and termite specialist.
- Both sloth bears and giant pandas separated from their ancestral lineage more than one million years ago before polar bears and brown bears existed.
- Researchers discovered that giant pandas mostly consume high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet.
- Additionally, sloth bears consume low-protein, high-fat diet.
- The preference for low protein foods seemingly occurred early in the evolution of bears and may have been an important factor to their global distribution.
Robbins, C.T., Christian, A.L., Vineyard, T.G. et al. Ursids evolved early and continuously to be low-protein macronutrient omnivores. Sci Rep 12, 15251 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-19742-z
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