Hybrid Polar & Grizzly Bears May Be Glimpse of Future if Arctic Ice Melting Continues

OSNABRUCK, Germany, Oct. 30 (UPI) — Hybrid offspring from a polar bear and a grizzly bear behave more like polar bears but look like a combination of the two species, German scientists said.

The two hybrid bears, a male and a female, provide a glimpse of what hybrids in the wild could look like if climate change continues to melt arctic ice, forcing more polar bears onto the mainland where they would encounter brown bears, said Ute Magiera, conservation coordinator for Germany’s Osnabruck Zoo.

So far, just one hybrid bear has been seen in the wild, Magiera told the BBC in a story published Friday. That bear was killed by a hunter in 2006 in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Seventeen hybrid bears exist in zoos, including the two born in Osnabruck Zoo in 2004. The Osnabruck hybrids were separated from their parents shortly after birth to prevent them from learning behaviors from either parent.

The Osnabruck hybrids look like a combination of the parents but act like polar bears, using their front legs to stamp on objects, as polar bears do to break ice, Magiera said. The hybrids also use their teeth to shake objects, as polar preys do with prey.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Categorized | Animals, Conservation
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