Polar Bear Evolution

Facts and Information


It is very interesting to take a backwards look at Polar Bear. While we may be in awe of what we see with these magnificent creatures today, there is evidence that points to evolution for them over time. This is a type of change that allows them to survive and it is believed that more than 38 million years ago the bear family called Ursidae split from other types of carnivorans.

However, it was only about 4.2 million years ago that the Ursinae family emerged from the Ursidae. There have been fossilized remains of very early Polar Bears found. Experts date them from 110,000 to 130,000 years old. This information is based on the data from the jaw bone of the remains. Some of these remains were found in 2004 at Prince Charles Foreland.

One of the significant changes that have been noted in these fossil remains to the Polar Bears of today are the shape of their teeth. In the past, they were very similar in size and shape to those of the Brown Bear. This information further supports a common theory that the Polar Bear split from Brown Bears back in the Pleistocene period.

Today, we have DNA evidence to show differences between early Polar Bears and those found today. This DNA evidence also supports the theory that the Polar Bear split from the Brown Bear about 150,000 years ago.

There are plenty of questions about the evolution of the Polar Bear that we simply don’t have answers to. For example, what occurred that allowed them to live in the coldest regions when other species of bears can’t? Something would have had to occur within the evolution period to help them have a lighter color of fur and to have the layers of blubber to offer them insulation. The longer neck and the ability to swim well could also be part of the evolution process for survival.

There is also evidence that shows the Polar Bear was able to successfully survive warming of significant temperatures about 44,000 years ago. This information stems from fossil remains that have been found in some locations where the warming is documented to have taken place. This information has given some scientists hope that the Polar Bear will also be able to evolve enough to withstand the issues caused for them now due to global warming.

However, it is very important to point out that evolution doesn’t occur quickly, and that there could be a significant drop in the overall Polar Bear population before something can change enough for them to survive. When you view the alarming rate of global warming compiled with other issues in the environment, it may prove to be too much for them to tolerate.

Some of the research that has been conducted indicates the Polar Bear was able to survive the last warming period by hiding in the few remaining locations that did offer them icy. It is possible such refuges could play a vital role again in the future for helping them to survive. Yet the risk of a shallow genetic pool continues to be part of the core issues for survival as well.

It can be fun to examine the facts about evolution and the Polar Bear. It can also be very exciting to look closely at the different theories out there that are yet to be proven or disproven. However, many of the experts feel that right now the focus needs to be on the future for them rather than the past so that they can have a chance of being here in great numbers in the future.


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