A giant skull discovered on a beach in northernmost Alaska may belong to a subspecies of polar bear that’s never before been reported by scientists. But the elusive bear may have long been familiar to indigenous people in the Arctic.

The single, hefty bone is the fourth largest polar bear skull ever found, measuring 410 millimeters, or just over 16 inches, from the tip of the nose to the back of the skull, and it has what experts describe as an unusually slender and elongated shape.

Radiocarbon dating has shown the skull to be about 1,300 years old.

But the giant bear may have descendants living today that have inspired native accounts of enormous, 12-foot long bears, sometimes referred to as “king bears” or “weasel bears,” said Dr. Anne Jensen, who reported the find.

“We don’t know the exact size [of the whole animal], but we do know it was a huge bear,” Jensen said in an interview.

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