Friday, 30 October 2009

Polar bear plus grizzly equals ... ?

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Bear line up
Clockwise: A female hybrid, male hybrid, polar bear and brown bear (all pictures courtesy of Alexandra Preuß)

What do you get if you cross a polar bear with a grizzly brown bear?

Scientists can now answer the question, following the first study of a polar bear/grizzly bear hybrid.

Only one hybrid bear has ever been seen in the wild, so the study evaluated two hybrid bears kept in captivity, which are among 17 such bears known to exist.

While each hybrid has inherited characteristics from either parent, some traits, such as partially hollow hair, appear to be a blend of the two.

"Hybrids between polar and brown bears in the wild are very rare. Only one confirmed case is known," says Dr Ute Magiera, the conservation coordinator of Osnabruck Zoo in Germany.

We were surprised about the offspring, because for 24 years nothing happened
Dr Ute Magiera
Osnabruck Zoo, Germany

That hybrid bear was shot in April 2006 by an American big game hunter on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada.

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