Polar Bear Myths that just won’t quit:
Like seals popping up at breathing holes, the myth that polar bear numbers are increasing has resurfaced on some blog posts and news shows, with claims that polar bears have increased from 5,000 in the 1960s to 20,000 to 25,000 today. But the truth is that scientists don’t have an inkling about how many bears there were in the 1960s. READ MORE
Posts tagged polar bear.
A pizzly bear is a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. Apparently, grizzlies are migrating north as they adapt to warmer temperatures. They expose a strange loophole in conservation and animal law, where governments protect habitat of vulnerable species. Pizzlies are not categorized as endangered or protected, thus making them prime targets for hunters.
Pizzly / Post by Katie Billing of Polar Bears International
You may have heard of ligers and labradoodles, but have you ever heard of a pizzly? A pizzly is a hybrid animal, meaning that both parents are of different species. As the name sounds, a pizzly is the inbred product of polar bears and grizzly bears. (Sometimes they are known as grolar bears.) These unique hybrids were spotted April 23, 2012 by two biologists from the University of Alberta.
Jodie Pongracz and Evan Richardson were on a trip in Viscount Melville Sound in the High Arctic of Canada with expectations to satellite-collar polar bears (Struzik, 2012). What they spotted in Wynniatt Bay was a pizzly! This hybrid is unusual because it has occurred in nature. Labradoodles and other dog hybrids are bred through artificial selection. The pizzly exists today because grizzly bears have been venturing up to the Northern Arctic due to climate change.
Grizzly bears are not the only animals moving north. Several other species have been spotted including fish species, caribou, and red foxes! (Erica and I spotted both red and arctic foxes in Churchill!) Some people think that pizzlies/grolar bears are a good solution for climate change. Pennsylvania State and University of Buffalo have sequenced polar bear genomes and found that brown bears helped create polar bears to begin with. They predict that the inbreeding occurring now is caused due to the polar bear’s shrinking habitat. The unfortunate people who find climate change undisturbing are thankful to hear this news and deem it the perfect solution. However, polar bear experts see problems facing the new hybrids.
Ed Struzik in Yale’s Environment 360 Digest quoted Andrew Derocher, one of the top polar bear researchers. Derocher mentioned in the article the diversity between grizzly bears and polar bears in terms of ecology and physiology. He stated that, “ While they may closely resemble each other physically and genetically, they have evolved in very different ways. Grizzlies, for example, have learned to live off a variety of foods such as caribou, berries, roots, and even seals. The polar bear, on the other hand, is almost exclusively a hunter of seals” (Struzik, 2012). Not a lot of research has been conducted on these new species and there is no knowing if they are the saviors of the polar bear species. What is known is that they can’t be relied upon. In addition, there are currently no regulations or restrictions on the hunting of pizzlies. Derocher mentions, “…Bear hunters would pay dearly for the chance to shoot (hybrid polar/grizzly bears). That could mean that hybrids - not subject to the strict hunting quotas governing the threatened polar bear - could face heavy hunting pressure” (Struzik, 2012).
The polar bear’s sea ice habitat is diminishing with the warming climate. Scientists now know that polar bears are taking drastic measures to keep their species alive by mating with grizzly bears and producing offspring. In a presentation given by Dr. Evan Richardson, a wildlife biologist from the Canadian Wildlife Service, he mentioned that a female polar bear mated with a male grizzly and produced a female pizzly. That female pizzly mated with a male polar bear and produced a cub. This data shows that these hybrids are not sterile. This gives some hope on the genetics side of things; however hybrids are not the solution to climate change, nor will they ever be as breathtaking as the 100% pure bred polar bear.
Great work by Katie Billing of Polar Bears International
A polar bear and her two cubs scavenge from the remains of a bowhead whale at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in North Slope, Alaska
New evidence suggests that polar bears first appeared about five million years ago, making them much older than previously thought. They diverged from brown bears and underwent a series of evolutionary changes in order to survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic—adaptations from the shape of their body to keener senses, white fur, and sharper teeth.
The findings indicate that polar bears evolved over a long time frame to a life of hunting seals and surviving extreme cold, a life quite different from terrestrial brown bears.
Interestingly, the genome evidence shows that after brown bears and polar bears separated, there were periods when they came into contact again. The new study also reveals surprisingly little genetic diversity in today’s polar bears, suggesting bottleneck periods, probably during warm periods, when their numbers were severely reduced.
What does this mean in the face of the current arctic warming now taking place? First, the longer evolutionary period shows that polar bears won’t be able to adapt to changing sea ice conditions within a mere one hundred years. And although the longer time frame means that polar bears survived previous warm periods, the temperatures reached in the Arctic if we continue on our present greenhouse-gas-warming course will be unlike anything polar bears have survived before.
Read more via Polar Bears International.
I like that the author chose to use the findings towards a practical discussion vis a vis “what does this mean?”. We need more of that in science communication.
I’ve never heard of a bear cage before. Looks neat.
UK! New documentary series involving polar bears!
Monday 7th January BBC2 at 9:30pm is ‘The Polar Bear Family & Me’ with Scottish wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan.
Here’s a short clip of what’s to come on Monday.
Just came across this polar bear documentary by the BBC. Pace is a bit slow, but still pretty good.
Documentary revealing the way of life for the worlds largest land carnivore as its never been seen before. A mother polar bear and her cub emerge from their snow den in the Arctic to enter a hostile world of sub-zero temperatures and limited food supplies. Ice is the battleground, polar bears and seals are mortal enemies, and survival is on a knife edge. Narrated by Sanjeev Bhaskar.
This might be the best video describing Arctic ice melt I’ve ever seen. It is also the scariest. The Arctic is the Earth’s air conditioner. It helps regulate temperatures around the globe in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the Arctic provides stability. Once the ice is melted, the system blows up and gets all out of wack. It impacts everything from fisheries to weather to coastal infrastructure to animal habitat. Click here to read an easy summary by WaPo for more reasons why this matters.
I’ve seen, heard, read, viewed, participated, and debated dozens and dozens of aspects of climate change. This one, this video, is one of the best explainers of how much trouble the Earth is in.
…produced by independent videographer Peter Sinclair for The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media explains what expert scientists now find to be the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice in recorded history.
Sony World Photography Awards 2011 - open shortlist: Nature and Wildlife: Antoine Beyeler, Switzerland. “This is as kitsch a bear as it gets, but real ice, real sky and, most importantly, real wild polar bear in its actual habitat - Svalbard.”
More info on Svalbard.
Follow Climate Adaptation.
Adorable Animal Being Adorable of the Day: It’s the laziest polar bear you’ll see all day.
Keep volume on. :)
Did you know that Polar Bears are hunted for their fur, claws, and teeth?