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Throwback Thursday: Arctic's first 'pizzlies' puzzle scientists

Meet the 'pizzlie,' a cross between a polar bear and a grizzlie
  • Apr 27, 2016
  • 295 words
  • 2 minutes
What do you get when you cross a polar bear with a grizzly? (Photo: Canadian Geographic Archives)
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You’ve heard of a liger, right? No? How about a zony? Doesn’t ring a bell either? Let me throw one more of these conflations at you, then, as did the November/December 2006 issue of Canadian Geographic when it ran a story on… pizzlies.

The pizzly, if you haven’t guessed by now, was the nickname given to a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear that an American hunter shot and killed on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic in April 2006 — the first of its kind ever discovered in the wild, reported the National Post at the time.

For the Canadian Geographic piece (part of the magazine’s “Wildlife stories of the year” feature), writer Ed Struzik examined the scientific detective work that followed the bear’s death to find out why and how the hybrid came to be. I won’t spoil it for you, but as Struzik explains, “It is very unlikely that this hybrid resulted from a brief encounter. Chance meetings between the two bear species are rare, although they have been seen feeding together on land on the remains on bowhead whales harvested by Inupiat hunters just across the Yukon border, at Kaktovik, Alaska.”

The upshot of the pizzly puzzle, reported Struzik, was that although more scientific evidence was needed to determine precisely why and how the bears were interbreeding, chances were that more hybrids would be seen. Meanwhile, Struzik wrote, “It will be a hot day in the Arctic before taxonomists feel compelled to coin a new moniker for these mammalian anomalies. Until then, they remain ‘pizzlies.’”

Or grolar bears, if you will.

Click the image below to read the full story.

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