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Science News: What the existence of the ‘brolar bear’ says about climate change

– K.J., Editor

Climate change has become a part of our lives and its impacts will continue to increase in the near future. Many species around the world are being affected, such as polar bears, foxes, seals and other fauna native to the Arctic where global warming has caused sea ice to shrink by 12.6% per decade in the summer season.

If we look at the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) in particular, this decline in sea ice means that hunting for food is harder in summer. So, being the very smart predators they are, polar bears move further inland to hunt. This means that the polar bear’s geographical range is overlaps with that of the brown bear (Ursus arctos), leading to interbreeding and eventually the creation of an entirely new species. These brown bear-polar bear hybrids have been referred to as “pizzlies” or “brolar bears”.

We should expect more sightings of these hybrids in the future, stated Innokentiy Okhlopkov, a researcher at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. This situation indicates a poor outcome for the polar bear, since the combined loss of their natural habit combined with interbreeding could cause its pure species to disappear completely.

Polar bears are apex predators and are a necessary part of the Arctic’s ecosystem. As climate change persists, they and other important species around the globe will be at risk of extinction. Hopefully, further damage to the planet can be prevented, so that species like the polar bear will no longer be threatened or endangered, but instead start to thrive again.

Click here for the Japanese version.

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