Bears are large mammals, and comprise eight species in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and the circumpolar Arctic. The earliest bears lived in North America and Europe during the late Eocene epoch, approximately thirty-seven million years ago. Bears are classified as carnivores, having evolved from small generalized predators. Functionally, however, bears range from the almost completely carnivorous polar bear to the almost completely herbivorous giant panda. The remaining six bear species are omnivorous, opportunistically feeding on a wide range of plants as well as mammals, fish, insects, and mollusks. A brown bear in Alaska, for example, emerging fromits winter den in April orMay,may feed on carrion (winter-killed moose or caribou), switch to grasses, sedges, and roots as spring progresses, and then eat mostly salmon as the summer salmon runs begin.
The Classification Controversy
While most taxonomists today recognize eight species of living bears, there has long been disagreement over whether to consider the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) a true bear. The issue is complicated by the existence of the red (or lesser) panda (Ailurus fulgens). The red panda is raccoonlike in appearance, while the giant panda looks like a bear, yet the two pandas share some anatomical and behavioral features. The fossil record on pandas is scant. Recent molecular studies have shed new light on the issue but are not conclusive. Anatomical, biochemical, paleontological, behavioral, and reproductive evidence is all relevant to this issue but is subject to differing interpretations by different authorities. Some place both pandas in the bear family (Ursidae); some put both in the raccoon family (Procyonidae); some consider the giant panda a bear and the red panda a raccoon; some put the two pandas in their own family, naming it either Ailuridae or Ailuropodidae; and some put the red panda in Ailuridae and the giant panda in Ailuropodidae. Clearly there is no simple answer to the question of how to classify the pandas. However, in general usage among both biologists and lay persons at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the giant panda is considered a bear, and the red panda is not.
Thanks for description - Animal life club