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Polar bears evolved earlier than previously thought

Polar bear genome shows they evolved much earlier than previously thought. Picture by Alan Wilson, www.naturepicturesonline.com

A team of scientists led by researchers from the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) has found out that polar bears evolved as early as some 600,000 years ago. The study, published in the current issue of the journal “Science”, ( Nuclear Genomic Sequences Reveal that Polar Bears Are an Old and Distinct Bear Lineage, Hailer, F. et.al) says the white giants are thus five times older than previously realised.

Why do we need to know this apart from pure scientific curiosity?  Because knowing when polar bears evolved as a genetically distinct species, different from brown bears, could help us understand what is going to happen to the polar bears if the planet keeps heating up. You can read more about how the scientists came to their conclusions and what implications they could have here.

 

Date

April 23, 2012 | 1:19 pm

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