The Polar bear is the world’s largest land living carnivore and lives largely within the Arctic circle.
Although polars bears are born on land they grow-up to spend much of their time in the water hunting for seals which is their main source of food.
For thousands of years, this wonderful creature has been paramount in the spiritual and cultural world of the Arctic’s Indigenous people, but at present the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species with at least eight of the 19 polar bear subpopualtions in serious decline.
Thanks to a recent genetic study of these magnificent animals, Scientists now believe that the polar bears ancestors interbred with brown bears when the earths climate change led to occasional overlaps in the bears natural habitats in ancient Ireland 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.
Owing to the cross-mating of the two bears led to maternal DNA from brown bears being introduced into polar bears, that became ‘fixed’ in the species 50,000 years ago, making the mother of all polar bears Irish.
These exciting findings overturn previous theories according to the US and Irish researchers.
Researcher Beth Shapiro, of Penn State University said:
“The bottom line is that the two species bumped up against one another for extended periods of time on different occasions.
“While polar bears are expert swimmers adapted to an Arctic lifestyle and brown bears are climbers who prefer living in mountains andd valleys, the two species interbred on ‘many’ occasions over the last 100,000 years.
“Whenever they came into contact, there seems to be little barrier to their mating.
“Arctic climate such as melting glacial ice and rising sea levels has led to sightings of several adult hybrid bears in the last five years.
Those cross-breeds could have a role to play in the survival of certain species.
“These findings could also help conservation strategies for the ever dwindling population of polar bears today.”