Polar Bears are all Descended from a Single Bear: The Genghis Khan of Bears


Genghis Khan was a pretty remarkable dude, not only for his ability to kill and conquer with unparalleled fervor and success, but also for his ability to please the ladies, lots and lots of ladies.  According to genetic research, it is estimated that Genghis Khan’s descendants living today are currently numbered at around 16 million, or .05% of the entire world population of males.

Recent research suggests that humans are not the only species to have a common ancestor that really ‘got around.’  Researchers have found that polar bears are all descended from a single mamma brown bear that lived in present-day Ireland between 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.

DNA samples from the great white carnivores – taken from across their entire range in Russia, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Alaska – revealed that every individual’s lineage could be traced back to this Irish forebear.

This apparently gorgeous brown bear is the ancestor of ALL polar bears living today, and I can only assume she would be devastated to see her plethora of grandchildren struggling to survive atop the globe that she once called her sexual battleground.

A cross between a polar bear and a grizzly, a pizzlie, used to be far more common, but as time went on polar bears and grizzlies went their separate ways and became very different genetically, with polar bears being more adept at swimming and hunting seal, and grizzlies being more adept at climbing.

Despite being a different species, not sub-species, the two bears were, and are still able to mate.  As the ice caps melt, and polar bears are pushed further and further south, the world is beginning to spot more and more pizzlies.  This hybridization is giving polar bears an evolutionary advantage as they are now able to live in both worlds, albeit being less proficient at surviving in each one.  It is a juggle between survival through hunting ability, and survival through being able to fundamentally exist in your environment (ie. the melting ice caps).

The Genghis Khan of Bears would be proud to know that her snow-white offspring are making a comeback.  Next up in the evolutionary path of bears, sky-iron armor!










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