(NEXSTAR) – A new breed of hybrid polar and grizzly bear has been seen stalking the arctic, and experts say the new species arose due to the effects of climate change.
So-called “pizzly” bears were first spotted in the wild in 2006. The bears are “more resilient to climate change and better-suited for warmer temperatures,” paleontologist Larisa DeSantis said.
Desantis recently published a study on the changes to polar bears’ diets amid global warming.
Scientists believe the pizzly arose when polar bears migrated south due to shrinking arctic ice, where they met up with grizzlies and mated.
“Usually hybrids aren’t better suited to their environments than their parents, but there is a possibility that these hybrids might be able to forage for a broader range of food sources,” DeSantis told Live Science.
While polar bears have longer skulls in order to grab seals out of the water, “their molars are smaller than is typical for their body size because all they eat is blubber all day. Grizzlies, on the other hand, can eat whatever they want. We don’t know yet, but perhaps the intermediate skull of the pizzly could confer a biomechanical advantage.”
A pizzly was first spotted when a researcher noticed a bear with the white fur of a polar bear, but the long claws, hump, shallow face and patchy brown fur of a grizzly. A 2017 study in the journal Arctic indicated that eight hybrids had been born of a mother polar bear who mated with two grizzlies.
As Live Science notes, “The rise of the pizzlies coincides with polar bears’ decline.” They noted that the number of polar bears in the wild are expected to decrease 30% over the next 3 decades.