Polar Bear is 600,000 — Go Bears

I love it when the conventional wisdom of the day is successfully challenged.

Witness what is happening right now with Polar bears.  The conventional wisdom of last week was that Polar bears had evolved from Brown bears about 150,000 years ago and that their species is declining.  Both assumptions appear to be wrong.

Two recent articles about Polar bears are forcing changes in peoples attitudes.  As this new information filters around the scientific community, lots of entrenched positions will require alteration.  It will be entertaining to watch.

The first article appeared in the New York Times on April 19th.  The article was reprinted on page one of our local paper a day later.   Polar bears not descended from Brown bears.  Scientists have used a new way of testing the DNA of Polar bears and Brown bears. They now believe that Polar bears have always been a distinct and different species from Brown bears and this species has been around for 600,000 years.  Wow.  Here is a link to the article:

http://www.adn.com/2012/04/19/2431687/polar-bears-not-descended-from.html#storylink=misearc

A second article, published on April 22nd by Forbes discusses a count of Polar bears in a critical Canadian habitat.   Local residents performed the count because they were convinced that they knew their own neighborhood better than the visiting scientists. That article titled Biodiversity Bombshell: Polar Bears And Penguins Prospering, But Pity Those Paramecium! is available at the following link:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/04/22/biodiversity-bombshell-polar-bears-and-penguins-prospering-but-pity-those-paramecium/

Wow what a good week for Polar bear news.

Scientists and natives have been arguing about the health of the Polar bear population for years.  This year, the Government of Nunavat conducted an aerial count of the Western Hudson Bay Polar Bear area.  Scientists had predicted that this group had already been decimated by global warming and that the population was down to 610 individual bears.

The government counted more than a thousand, which of course means the numbers are at least 66% higher than the experts said.  The numbers are almost surely higher, but how much higher.  It is possible the scientists were off  by more than 100%.   An area where Polar bears are supposed to be in decline might be doing the opposite.  The population might be increasing.  The Polar bears appear to be surviving much better than scientists predicted.

The article went on to say the Penguin population in Antarctica is healthier than expected too.  It’s beginning to look like there’s a bit of wild ass guessing going on in the Arctic, and Antarctic too.

Polar bears are listed as threatened species.  But not because their numbers are dwindling although some scientists claimed they were until April 22nd.  They are threatened by predicted environmental change that might occur if and when the Arctic warms.

What happens if that predicted change is not as threatening as earlier thought?  Suppose that 1) the climate change is less likely to be severe or 2) the Polar bear is more adaptable than is widely believed.

If either is true, then the Polar bear does not belong on the threatened list.  The Polar bear not threatened….that could be a public relations and fund raising problem for environmental groups that have spent years lobbying to get it included over objections form locals in Alaska and Canada.

Stay tuned …this could get interesting.

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