DNA hints at polar bears' Irish ancestry

Maternal line traced back to brown bears on Emerald Isle

By Susan Milius, 15:43 PM July 7, 2011

All polar bears living today may be able to trace their maternal ancestry back through grandmothers many times great to a female brown bear in Ireland.

Analyzing bits of maternally inherited DNA from 242 bear lineages, both modern and fossil, suggests that polar bears interbred with brown bears in or near the vicinity of Ireland between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago, says evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro of Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

A major Irish brown bear ancesto...

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