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Policy: Environment & Energy

Huge genetics study says polar bears have been around for 1.2 million years

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Climate Change,Energy and Environment,Global Warming

Another scientist has more bad news for global warming advocates claim that Americans are killing Arctic Polar Bears with every stop to fill-up at a gas station.

Professor Matthew Cronin of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks studied the genetic histories of the three bear species, brown, black and polar.

What Cronin found casts significant new doubt about claims that the furry white monsters of the Arctic are soon going to be extinct if America doesn't stop causing global warming by burning fossil fuels.

Not his first rodeo

Cronin has been studying animal genetics for 25 years and his latest study will be made public in a paper to be published shortly in the online Journal of Heredity, according to UAF's Nancy Tarnai.

"Cronin also published papers on the relationships of the bears with different genetic analyses in 2012 with a collaborator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Journal of Heredity, and in 2013 with co-workers at Texas Tech University in the Canadian Journal of Zoology," Tarnai said.

"The 2014 paper replicates other research on bear genomes but includes analysis of genetic variation in more than 300 bears from Alaska and genetic elements not assessed previously in bears," she said.

Bears have been around

It turns out the bears have been around for a long, long time. Polar bear diverged from brown bears as a distinct species about 1.2 million years ago, while the black bear diverged from the other two 2.3 million years ago.

“The ramifications are that, if the polar bear was an independent species for about 1 million years, it survived previous cold and warm periods,” Cronin said.

“This means the polar bear has been an independent lineage a long time through glacial and interglacial and warm periods,” he said.

Been there, done that

Tarnai points out that "the last glacial period was at maximum extent about 22,000 years ago, and was preceded by a warm interglacial period about 130,000 years ago. Other warm and cold periods preceded that.

If that sounds like something that should be accounted for in computer models claiming to predict accurately future temperature changes, Cronin certainly thinks so.

“It seems logical that if polar bears survived previous warm, ice-free periods, they could survive another," he said.

"This is of course speculation, but so is predicting they will not survive, as the proponents of the endangered species act listing of polar bears have done.”

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