May 24, 2010 | 5
An extremely rare “grolar bear“—a polar-grizzly bear hybrid—was shot and killed by an Inuit hunter in Canada’s Northwest Territories last month.
Global warming has reportedly been driving grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) farther north in search of food, bringing them into polar bear (U. maritimus) territory. Polar bears, meanwhile, are finding themselves stranded on land instead of their usual sea ice, bringing them into contact with the grizzlies.
This is only the second time that a grolar bear has been encountered in the wild and confirmed, but even with its rarity, it is more distinctive than expected. DNA tests released by the N.W.T. Environment and Natural Resources Department reveal that this was actually a second-generation grolar bear—meaning one of its parents (its mother) was already a polar-grizzly hybrid. The father was a purebred grizzly, the tests found.
The hunter knew he had something unusual, which is why he asked to have it identified. The bear had the polar bear’s white fur but a bigger head, brown paws and longer claws more typical of a grizzly bear.
The first grolar bear confirmed in the wild was killed by a hunter in 2006. A few others have been born in zoos.
Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, FutureX