Polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly-polar bear hybrids. These hybrids are named the grolar bear, pizzly bear, or nanulak. Here are 10 amazing pizzly bear facts.

1. Pizzly bears are smaller than polar bears, but larger than grizzlies

Pizzly bears’ physical characteristics are generally intermediate between their parent species. They are smaller than polar bears but larger than grizzlies.

2. They share the body characteristics of their parent species

Pizzly bears actually look like you would expect mixing a polar bear and a grizzly bear. Their heads are narrower than the broad grizzly heads but broader than the lean polar bear heads. Furthermore, they have long necks like polar bears, but small shoulder humps like grizzlies. These shoulder humps are one of the main characteristics of grizzlies’ bodies.

They also have long claws, like grizzlies.

3. Their fur is also in between in color

The furs of pizzly bears are a bit lighter in coloration than a grizzly bear’s but darker than a polar bear’s.

4. They are fertile

Grizzly bears and polar bears diverged only about 500,000 – 600,000 years ago, so the two species can mate and produce viable offspring.

A pizzly bear (polar/brown bear hybrid)
A pizzly bear (polar/brown bear hybrid) at Osnabrück Zoo, Germany. Photo by Corradox – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

5. Their behavior is more similar to polar bears than grizzlies

Two grizzly-polar hybrid cubs, one female, and one male were born at Osnabrück Zoo in (Germany) 2004. According to the observations, their behavior is more similar to polar bears than grizzlies.

Researchers noted that:

  • They stomped toys in a manner reminiscent of how polar bears break the ice.
  • They also hurled bags to the side “as polar bears may hurl prey”. When Grizzlies are given the same bags, they did not hurl them.
  • The hybrids were also seen resting down on their bellies with their back legs outstretched, as polar bears do.

6. First pizzly bear sighted in the wild in 2006

And, unfortunately, it was shot down by a hunter, near Sachs Harbour on Banks Island, Northwest Territories (Canada) on April 16, 2006. Why does people’s first reaction is killing an animal which is unfamiliar to them?

Before this incident, in the past, possible wild-bred polar bear-grizzly bear hybrids have been reported and some even shot, but DNA tests to confirm the bears’ ancestry were unavailable at the time.

Grizzly-polar bear hybrid
In 2006, testing the DNA of a unique-looking bear that had been shot near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic confirmed that the polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly-polar bear hybrids – which are named the grolar bear, pizzly bear, or nanulak. Possible wild-bred polar bear-grizzly bear hybrids have been reported and shot in the past, but DNA tests were not available. Image: Polar/brown bear hybrid, Rothschild Museum, Tring on Wikipedia

7. Pizzly bears may be better able to adapt to a warming arctic than polar bears

Scientists suspect that pizzly bears may be better able to adapt to a warming arctic than polar bears. These hybrids might be better suited for a broader range of food sources than the polar bears, for example – like the grizzly bear, basically eats whatever it finds, from meat to grass.

This hypothesis needs further study and careful observations, scientists think.

8. They swim better than grizzlies

But they are not as good as polar bears at swimming.

9. Not all light-colored bears are pizzly bears

Grizzly bears can have lighter fur colors. For example, the grizzlies living in the Barren Grounds are known to have lighter furs – they are even called “blonde grizzlies”. So, not all sightings of a light-colored bear (and darker than a polar bear) point to a pizzly bear.

The bear shot in 2016, near Arviat on the western shore of Hudson Bay, for example, was widely reported as a hybrid but it was subsequently confirmed by genetic analysis to be a pure brown bear.

10. Their number is growing due to climate change

As global warming thins the Arctic sea ice, starving polar bears are being driven to the south as they search for alternative food sources as hunting seals from sea ice becomes untenable, where they meet grizzly bears, whose ranges are expanding northwards. So the two bear species contacting to each other more frequently in recent decades, which resulted in more mating between them. This is increasing the number of pizzly bears.

In this video, published by Vanderbilt University, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Larisa DeSantis discusses pizzly bears (grizzly + polar bear hybrid species)

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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