; suborder Fissipedia (or Caniformia), superfamily Canoidea)
A family of large, slow-moving mammals whose ancestors were the last group of canoids to diverge from the ancestral ‘dog’ line, some time during the Miocene and probably soon after that line became established. They are distinctive within the order Carnivora, for the departure involved an adaptation to an omnivorous and mainly herbivorous diet. The last molar is absent, the remaining molars being elongated and having grinding surfaces, and the carnassials are weakly developed. The gait is plantigrade, the claws non-retractile. Bears are distributed throughout much of the northern hemisphere apart from Africa, and in S. America. Traditionally there have been seven species, in five genera; but nowadays the giant panda (Ailuropoda) is also included as a sixth genus.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.