|Scientific name||Cetacea||Weight||300–500 kilograms (660–1,100 pounds)|
|Pronunciation||.PIZZ-lee bear.||Length||roughly 1.5 meters (4.92 feet)|
|Classification||Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae||Location||Arctic region|
The Pizzly Bear
What do you get when you combine the DNA of a grizzly bear with that of a polar bear?
A pizzly bear!
While the Idea of splicing the DNA of two of the most fearsome land mammals might sound like something a mad scientist would do in a sci-fi movie, pizzly bears exist in real life.
In fact, they are more common than you can imagine.
So far, eight confirmed cases of pizzlies have been reported in various parts of North America, with many more unconfirmed sightings.
Pizzly bears are also commonly referred to by other names such as grolar bear or zebra bear.
Grizzly–polar bear hybrids have attributes of both bear species.
They have white fur like polar bears with long claws reminiscent of grizzly bears.
They also have a humped back and shallow face.
The exact number of grizzly bears in the wild is currently unknown.
This is just one of several things that we are yet to know about this unique hybrid.
In this article, we’ll explore some known facts about pizzly bears, detailing the most interesting facts about them.
Taxonomy and Classification
The pizzly bear is a hybrid formed when a grizzly bear and a polar bear mate.
The confirmed cases so far are instances of male grizzly bears mating with female polar bears.
Both bear species are in the Ursus genus, which means they’re closely related.
The scientific name of the grizzly bear is Ursus arctos horribilis.
It is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos).
Other popular brown bear subspecies include the Kodiak bear, Kamchatka bear, and peninsular grizzly.
The polar bear is a different species with the scientific name Ursus maritimus.
The only known captive hybrids of these two bear species in recent years were born in 2004 at the Osnabrück Zoo in Germany.
Before this, a hybrid was born and raised successfully at the Smithsonian National Zoo in the 1930s.
Grizzly-polar bear hybrids likely existed in the wild long before this.
The evolution of the bears began as far back as 40 million years ago.
But the more modern species appeared relatively recently.
Brown bears, including grizzly bears, evolved about 800,000 years ago.
Polar bears, on the other hand, split off from the brown bears about 343,000 to 479,000 years ago.
Studies suggest that there’s a gene flow between these two bear species, which means hybridization is not an entirely new development in living species of bears.
The first confirmed sighting of a pizzly bear in the wild was in 2006.
The grizzly–polar bear hybrid was shot in the Canadian Arctic, and a DNA test confirmed it to be a hybrid.
Interestingly, this was probably not the first wild grizzly–polar bear hybrid to be shot like this.
Many similar-looking bears have been shot in the past, but the lack of DNA tests at the time made it difficult to determine their ancestry for sure.
Since they are hybrids, pizzly bears show intermediate physical attributes between their two parents.
For instance, while grizzly bears are known to have a stocky body, polar bears have a more elongated appearance.
Their love child, however, is a mix of these two qualities.
They’re generally smaller than polar bears but still larger than grizzlies.
The hybrid’s weight is typically between 300 and 500 kilograms (660 to 1,100 pounds)
The shape of their head is also intermediate between both bear species.
It’s somewhere between the broad head of the grizzly and the lean profile of the polar bear’s head.
Pizzly bears also have long necks similar to polar bears, but their shoulders have small bumps like the grizzlies do.
Pizzlies have creamy fur similar to polar bears but not quite as white.
Some individuals have patches of brown fur around their eyes and feet.
Their feet are equipped with long claws, another feature they share with grizzly bears.
In pizzly bears, the soles of their feet have a partial covering of fur.
This is similar to what’s seen in polar bears.
The hair-covered soles of these ice-faring species help provide some insulation for their sole when walking on ice.
It is worth noting that the appearance of pizzly bears may vary depending on the genetic composition of the parents and environmental factors.
Habitat and Distribution
The habitats and distribution of pizzly bears depend on the habitats of their parent species.
Grizzly bears live in various habitats across western North America, specifically in Alaska and Canada.
Polar bears, on the other hand, are specially adapted to life in the Arctic region.
Their typical range covers parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, and the United States.
Polar bears also have a much smaller range than grizzly bears.
In some places, such as in Canada and Alaska, polar bears and grizzlies live not too far from each other.
In the past, their range did not overlap.
This is because polar bears spend most of their time drifting on sea ice.
They were hardly on land, which limited encounters between both species significantly.
The polar bear’s habitat has been shrinking terribly in recent years due to climate change.
As ice sheets continue to deplete, polar bears now travel deeper into regions originally inhabited by grizzly bears.
The opposite is happening with grizzly bears in some places.
Grizzly bears are starting to move into areas typically occupied by polar bears, such as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the Barren Grounds of Canada.
Pizzly bears are typically found in areas where the ranges of these two bears overlap like this in North America, such as the Northern edge of Alaska and Northern Manitoba.
These bears are relatively new, which makes it challenging to characterize their geographic range and habitats fully.
Behavior and Social Structure
Pizzly bears are yet to be observed in the wild.
However, the captive-bred species demonstrated a mix of behavior similar to that of both parents.
For instance, the pizzly bears had a habit of stomping their toys, similar to how polar bears break ice.
They also hurled bags to the side just like polar bears hurl prey.
Grizzly bears given the same toys did not exhibit this behavior.
Pizzly bears also lay on the ground with their rear legs splayed in the air like polar bears do.
Although their population is too small to tell, this hybrid bear is probably not as aggressive as either of its parent species.
They most likely lead solitary lifestyles, similar to how other members of the Ursus genus live.
Pizzly bears do not have well-defined territories yet.
They may move around within their range with a pattern influenced by food availability.
Diet and Feeding
Grizzly bears are omnivorous, while their polar cousins are hypercarnivores.
This means they feed exclusively on meat.
They have longer skulls, which is well suited for their hunting habit of grabbing fish, seals, and other types of prey from the sea.
However, their molars are small and less developed compared to that of the grizzlies.
The skull of the pizzly bear seems to be an intermediate form between these two bears.
This type of skull structure gives the pizzly bear some biomechanical advantage when hunting for prey.
This would allow them to feed on a broader diet compared to their parents, making it easier for them to survive during periods of food shortages.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
In many animals, cross-species hybrids are often sterile.
This isn’t the case with pizzly bears.
Their parent species are related to each other enough to produce fertile individuals.
The typically solitary male seeks out females during the mating season.
Mating may occur in spring or summer.
However, like some Ursus species, the pizzly bear may be capable of delaying implantation until conditions are more favorable.
The gestation period of a pizzly bear is similar to that of grizzly bears and polar bears, which is approximately seven to eight months.
Like other Ursus bear species, the pizzly bears likely give birth to twin cubs.
The cubs are small and fragile at birth.
They remain with their mother for about two years until they’re mature and fully independent.
Ecological Role and Interactions
The interaction of pizzly bears and other animals within their ecosystem isn’t well-known yet.
As predators with a varied diet, pizzly bears likely interact with various prey species within the Arctic and subarctic environment.
This predator-prey relationship will shape the abundance and distribution of the prey animals in this region.
If the feeding habits of the pizzly bear are anything like the grizzlies, it means they may eat plants as well.
Animals that consume plant matter this way may aid in the dispersal of fruits.
The seeds contained in the food they eat may be transported and passed out with their droppings in new locations where the plant didn’t exist in the past.
This allows the germination of new plants in these areas.
Pizzly bears may also act as scavengers.
They consume carrion and other scavenged materials, contributing to the recycling of nutrients within their ecosystem.
Conservation Status and Threats
Only eight pizzly bears have been positively identified in the wild so far.
As a hybrid, their conservation status is not currently being assessed.
Still, the emergence of the pizzly bear may have far-reaching implications for existing populations of polar and grizzly bears.
Polar bears are classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, while the grizzly bear is a species of Least Concern.
Experts think the rise of the pizzlies will further push the already vulnerable polar bears into further decline, with an expected population drop of about 30% within the next 30 years.
As more ice sheets melt due to climate change, more grizzly bears will encroach into the polar bear’s range.
In addition to out-competing the polar bears, grizzly males will mate with female polar bears, producing more pizzly bears.
The polar-grizzly bear hybrids may be all that we have left if the polar bears eventually disappear.
The other possibility is for polar bears to continue to thrive within their icy home range while the pizzly bears occupy the intermediate regions of the Arctic as a new species.
Unique Adaptations and Survival Strategies
The body structure of the pizzly bear is an intermediate form between grizzlies and polar bears.
Combining the attributes of these two bears gives the hybrids the strengths and adaptations needed for both terrestrial and aquatic life.
For instance, the hairy soles of the polar bears insulate their feet when they walk on ice or snow.
Grizzlies have hairless soles that lack this insulation, while the pizzly bears have their soles partially covered in hair.
The skull structure of this bear hybrid also seems to be well-adapted to a varied diet similar to that of grizzly bears.
They may be able to switch between hunting seals on ice and foraging for terrestrial vegetation, depending on the season and food availability.
This adaptation will improve their chances of survival during periods of scarcity.
Pizzly bears may also inherit the swimming capabilities of polar bears.
Their strong limbs may allow them to cover long distances in the water, which will be valuable for hunting seals and other marine prey.
Cultural Significance and Human Interactions
Pizzly bears are not very well-known yet.
Until recently, the idea that polar bears could mate with grizzlies was mostly theoretical.
But since the confirmation of a wild grizzly in 2006, there have been at least seven additional confirmed cases.
This suggests that there might be more of them out there that are yet to be adequately documented.
All eight wild hybrids found so far seem to have descended from the same female polar bear.
Pizzly bears have been given various names in the media since they hit the spotlight in 2006.
Most of these names combine the names of the two parents.
They include Pizzly Bear, Grolar Bear, and Polizzy.
Although there are no official rules for naming these hybrids yet, the consensus is to call them with the male bear’s name first, followed by the female’s name.
This means bears by a polar bear mother, and a grizzly bear father is a grolar bear while they’re called pizzly bears when the situation is the other way round.
Two hybrid pups were born in a zoo in Germany in 2004.
Unfortunately, one escaped in 2017 and had to be put down.
Future Prospects and Research
The most significant scientific implications of a hybrid like the pizzly bear are in the areas of genetics and ecological research.
Thanks to advances in DNA, it has become easier to identify hybrid bear varieties in the wild.
Ongoing and future genetics studies will further provide insights into the dynamics of this hybridization and its impact on the adaptability of the bear hybrids.
The existence of pizzly bears also has serious ecological implications.
Scientists think polar bears and grizzlies are interacting more than before due to climate change and habitat loss.
A closer look at the hybridization trend will allow us to get a deeper understanding of how these two species interact as their ecosystems continue to change due to climate change.
Research on the specific behavior, diet, and interactions of the hybrid species will also tell us more about their adaptability to changing environmental conditions and what it might mean for the future of their parent species.
Pizzly bears or grolars are hybrid bear species produced when polar bears mate with grizzly bears.
Only a handful of these hybrids exist in the wild, but they have become common in recent years.
Experts think increasing overlap in the range of these two bear species due to habitat loss and climate change is the major reason we have more hybrids.
These hybrids combine the attributes of both species, allowing them to adapt to different environments and survive better in the face of ecological pressures.
The future will tell what the future of these grizzly-polar bear hybrids will look like, but we might just be witnessing the birth of an entirely new bear species.