Scientists have conducted the most in-depth analysis of the polar bear’s genome to date, revealing that past climate changes affected the animals. New genetic techniques also explain how the polar bear has adapted so well to its environment.
The world’s 20,000 to 25,000 remaining polar bears are classified as vulnerable, with dwindling Arctic sea ice reducing their chances of hunting and breeding. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for the deterioration of the polar bear’s habitat, and the genetic diversity of the population has also suffered as numbers have dwindled. An international group of researchers led by biologist Charlotte Lindqvist of the University at Buffalo investigated how the polar bear arose and developed, using DNA from an ancient polar bear and a modern one, as well as from modern brown and black bears.