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Pozzlies, Grizzpos? What to Call the Hybrid Bears?

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The new hybrids were first identified in 2006, when an Idaho hunter, Jim Martell, was on a hunting expedition with an Inuit guide, Roger Kuptana. The white-furred bear he shot had characteristics not seen in polar bears: long claws, a humped shoulder, brown eye patches and an unusual snout. DNA testing proved it to be a hybrid.

Others have spotted hybrids since then. In appearance they fall somewhere between grizzlies and polar bears. Their behavior tends to be more akin to polar bears, relying on a more carnivorous diet than grizzlies.

At the moment the hybrids are rare and not a threat to the continuation of either species. What threatens both is loss of habitat. Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, says:

Polar bears are likely to starve out of their present ranges long before their genes are swamped by those of grizzly bears. If some polar bear genes persist in grizzly bears, after polar bears have disappeared from their current sea ice home, that fact will be irrelevant with regard to efforts to retain the magnificent and highly specialized life form we now know as the polar bear.

Whether we call the hybrids pozzles, grizzpos or Arctic bears, they are a reminder that human tampering with the planet carries threats whose consequences scientists have been predicting for decades. Dr. Armstrup makes this observation:

Discussions of hybridization aside, it is important to remember that by the time we allow the world to warm enough that the polar bears’sea ice habitat disappears, challenges to humans will be so great that no one will be thinking about polar bear conservation.

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Photo credits: Thinkstock

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184 comments

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5:07PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

5:07PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Interesting article, thank you.

6:38AM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

they evolved from brown bears.
also, Scottish wild cat is being hybridized into extinction. I saw they think they have 6 months left untill being classifyed as extinct in the wild.

8:06AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

I like the summing up: It doesn't really matter what they are named, because hybridization aside, it won't matter when the polar bear loses its habitat, because humans will be so busy trying to preserve their own lives, they won't care about a bear.

7:11AM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Grazie per l'articolo.

11:01AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Thanks for the article.

10:36AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Interesting article.

2:06PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Thanks

6:09AM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

Nature knows what she is doing. Maybe the best way to save polar bears is to let them combine their genes once again with their distant cousin. Then when the time comes - maybe many hundreds of years from now & the earth once again cools the great polar bear will return. There is great danger in man interfering with the 'hybridization' process as we will lose the polar genes altogether if they go extinct, except for the few kept in captivity.

5:06PM PDT on Aug 13, 2012

How about Priuses? :D

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