Strange Bears Found
Back in 2006 on Banks Island, a strange bear was shot. Later, after sampling its DNA, scientists came to the conclusion that this was a polar-grizzly hybrid, or a “grolar bear.” Since then the offspring of a female polar-grizzly and a male grizzly has again been discovered, this time by David Kuptana, who had also shot the second-generation hybrid on April 8th of this year, thus providing DNA of yet another, more recent grolar bear.
Grolars are said to have elongated necks and broad humps at the shoulders. They sport a combination of coarse hair that appears to be from both grizzly and polar bears, not surprising. You can actually view hybrids at zoos, though they are rare.
Kuptana, who had found his hybrid out in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is selling the pelt, which is now over $15,000.
It was one thought that rare hybrids like these were found only in captivity. But both of these incidents prove grolar bears are not only surviving in the wild, but breeding as well. So what is causing bears to interbreed? Though there hasn’t been any confirmed reason as so to why bears in zoos will reproduce mixed offspring, it is concluded that polar bears in the wild are losing their habitat, thus forcing them further inland and resulting in hybrids. Some scientists even speculate that Global Warming could be the cause as well.
Is It Going to Continue This Way?
So what is in store for the future? Will interbreeding between bear species continue? According to Brendan Kelly, a marine biologist of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, the answer is yes. Grolar bears are probably going to become more common in the near future, steadily growing in the north. He explains that when there is no sea ice to hunt on, polar bears are forced to move onto land, and therefore come into closer range of grizzlies. But could the future hold more in store than just polar-grizzly hybrids? Again, the answer is yes-or probably. In fact, Kelly says, “We’re taking this continent-sized barrier to animal movement, and in a few generations, it’s going to disappear, at least in summer months. That’s going to give a lot of organisms-a lot of marine mammals in particular-who’ve been separated for at least 10,000 years the opportunity to interbreed again, and we’re predicting we’re going to see a lot of that.”
National Geographic News (nationalgeographic.com)