Everything and everyone is Irish in the end – and now it turns out the that great-great-great-etc grandmother of today’s polar bears were in fact from Ireland. This is not some desperate attempt by Ireland to enter a territorial dispute over Arctic resources (we have Rockall, after all) or to distract the populace from the grinding financial crisis.
No, it turns out that modern polar bears have carried a particular sequence of DNA via the female line – mitochondria, which they share with prehistoric Irish brown bears – this DNA is absent from other species of brown bear alive today. The international research, published in Current Biology suggests that the two species crossed paths during colder period in Irish prehistory, allowing the two breeds to cross paths. Even today, modern brown bears can interbreed with polar beards, despite physical differences between the species.
So there you are. Polar bears are Irish. Stick that in yer pipe and schmoke it.
References with much more details:
Guardian: Polar bear ancestors came from Ireland
Irish Times: Polar bears descended from extinct Irish female ancestors
Current Biology: Ancient Hybridization and an Irish Origin for the Modern Polar Bear Matriline
Read my earlier blog about a polar bear encounter »
Polar Bears photographs by Dave Walsh