20 Apr '12, 9pm

Polar bears evolved from brown bears 600,000 years ago - five times earlier than scientists assumed

Polar bears evolved as a separate species far earlier than previously thought, according to a new study, which adds to worries about their ability to adapt in a rapidly warming world. Research published in the journal Science on Thursday found that polar bears split off from brown bears, their closest relatives, around 600,000 years ago - five times earlier than scientists had generally assumed. The finding suggests polar bears took a long time to adapt to their icy world and may struggle to adjust as the Arctic gets warmer and the sea ice melts. The study, led by Dr Frank Hailer of Germany's Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, compared more extensive DNA samples from brown bears and polar bears than previous research. His team calculated the moment when the two types of bears diverged in the Pleistocene period, when the climate record shows that global temperatures ...

Full article: http://www.todayonline.com/Science/EDC120421-0000013/Pola...

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