The New Grolar-Pizzly Bear

Behavioral and anatomical adaption to habitat–including climate–becomes an isolating mechanism that keeps resulting subspecies living and evolving apart and hence, genetically isolated.

But when the climate changes–when warm zones move north, so do grizzlies; and when sea ice hunting forces polar bears more often onto land–formerly isolated populations find new mates.

And apparently, they are still “post-zygotically” compatible so that hybrids–like this “pizzly bear” result. Polar meets grizzly. They share more than sperm and egg: both are on the US Endangered Species list. And in this way of blended genomes, both species as they’ve been known, are “lost.”

More Artic hybrids are predicted.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’ve heard of pizzly bears before, and the little girl in me thinks it’s hilarious. The grown up in me thinks that something like that up there makes me happy I live in the desert.
    But the fact is, adapt or die, baby. Nature threw us into the mix, and we’re mucking it up, and they’re either adapting or dying.

  2. I have been following this new adaptation. It does keep the DNA of both species alive and in the active gene pool which may allow for similar species to evolve in the distant future when cold climates dominate again. And they will.