The world’s largest predators are crossing paths with brown bears at high altitudes, bringing hybrid “bears” to the Arctic.
In 2006, a Canadian Arctic hunter shot a bear that was unlike any other. DNA testing will confirm that the animal was part grizzly, part bear.
In recent years, ‘pizzlies’ or ‘brolar bears’ have increased dramatically in North America, and now researchers in Siberia are warning that the same may happen in other areas north of the snow.
“Brown bears are moving in the tundra. Brown bears have been appearing in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River, where polar bears live,” Innokentiy Okhlopkov, a researcher at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences told TASS, a Russian news agency. organization.
“Purple bears have been seen, for example, in the Anabar region [of Yakutia, Russia]. It seems that in the future there will be hybrids between polar and brown bears.”
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Polar bears and brown bears only diverged from each other 500,000 years ago. Although rare, intermarriage between the two can sometimes result in fertile offspring.
As climate change accelerates, revealing new habitats and food sources, these types of events may become more common as brown bears move north and cross paths with polar bears more frequently. Similarly, the melting of the ice allows the polar bears to move inland, and also leads to encounters between the two.
In the past, people in some parts of Russia have noticed that these two species are found in the same place. In the Yakutia region of Siberia there are two bears that can breed with brown bears.
Some studies estimate that polar bears could be on the verge of extinction by the year 2100, except for a few very isolated individuals in the Arctic. And if enough brown bears breed, the white species can soon become extinct.
Polar bears are expected to decline as the sea ice melts, but experts now worry that any remaining will see their genes diluted and hybridized.
In fact, this is already happening as you read this. In 2010, researchers in North America found a bear whose mother was mixed and whose father was brown.
Unlike polar bears, which mostly eat fat and meat, brown bears have a varied diet. They will eat anything they can find, which means they can handle any changes that may come in the future.
Polar bears are not adaptable, but perhaps new species of brown bears will help them survive in the Arctic.
If so, polar bears may still exist in the next few decades, but they will never be the same.
One day, it may represent a new species.