Thursday, July 7, 2011
Cool Bear News
Polar bears have maternal Irish brown bear ancestors
By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter
The maternal ancestors of modern polar bears were from Ireland, according to a DNA study of ancient brown bear bones.
Scientists in the UK, Ireland and the US analysed the teeth and skeletons of 17 brown bears that were found at eight cave sites across Ireland.
The new research has been reported in the latest edition of Current Biology.
Previously, it was believed that today's polar bears were most closely related to brown bears living on islands off the coast of Alaska.
However, analysis of mitochondrial DNA - which is passed from mother to child - has shown the extinct Irish brown bears are the descendants of all today's polar bears, the scientists said.
Their work provides evidence of the two species mating opportunistically during the past 100,000 years or more.
More at ~ bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-13965286