Polar bears have as their natural habitat the extreme north of the planet, in the arctic regions. Brown bears have a wide geographic distribution in North America and Asia. In Europe some specimens of them can still be seen in more mountainous and isolated areas. However, with global warming and the consequent melting of glaciers, these two species may start to cohabit in the same space, favoring the emergence of hybrids of polar bears and brown bears.
The melting of areas of the Arctic that polar bears use to forage, such as seals, causes these animals to forage for food in other places further south in the polar regions. At the same time, frozen areas, previously uninhabitable for brown bears, are now serving as habitat for this species. The Russian agency Tass has already reported on the geographic approach of these species in the Russian Far East, where polar bears live.
Scientists believe that the cohabitation of this location will facilitate the hybridization of the species.”Brown bears are moving into the tundra. They were seen in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River, where polar bears live,” Innokentiy Okhlopkov, a scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), told TASS.
Background of hybridization of polar bears and grizzly bears
The hybridization of these two bear species is nothing new. The first time a hybrid of a polar bear and grizzly bear, known as a grolar bear, was seen was in 2006 in Canada. Scientists analyzed a carcass of an animal killed by hunters and observed that what until then was thought to be a specimen of the polar species, had very different characteristics. After DNA analysis it was found to be a cross between the two species.
Another hybrid specimen was found in 2010, also in Canada. The specimen, however, was the result of a cross between a brown animal and another already hybrid. This confirmed the presence of other grolar bears in the region.
Habits of these animals
Polar bears are the largest species in the ursidae family. They are almost exclusively carnivorous animals and have a diet based on feeding on seals, but they can also feed on small mammals, birds, fish and vegetables. Meanwhile, brown bears have a wide diet, feeding on insects, fruits and vegetation, in addition to other mammals.
Hybrid animals share characteristics of both species, which may facilitate their survival. Entering experts point out that they can contribute to the extinction of polar bears due to the gene of brown bears standing out over the other species.
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