Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 12, 2011

Bearish wisdom!

Filed under: Brown Bears,Genetics,Genomics,Irish Bears,phylogenetics,Polar Bears — Razib Khan @ 12:11 am

ResearchBlogging.orgA few years ago a paper came out which suggested that the brown bears of the ABC Islands of southeastern Alaska were more closely related to polar bears than they were to other brown bears. More precisely, polar bears and ABC brown bears formed a distinct clade set apart from other brown bears, so that the class “brown bear” was not monophyletic. This meant that all the descendants of the hypothetical ancestral lineage of brown bears are not brown bears. Like reptiles, brown bears may then be paraphyletic. If this is correct polar bears can be thought of as a derived and specialized lineage of brown bears, despite all their morphological differences.

This is not just systematic arcana. The phylogenetic relationships of species has important implications for their conservation status, something all the more salient due to changes in the arctic habitat of the polar bear.

But there is a catch with the science: it focuses on mitochondrial lineages. In other words, the matriline, the female line of descent. There are technical reasons for this, primarily having to do with the tractability of ...

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