Meet the “Pizzly Bear,” a Polar/Grizzly Hybrid Moving in Next Door

Photo: Corradox, Wiki CC

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

As the earth grows warmer, some of its cold-weather creatures are struggling to survive, and in response, nature is showing us what it does best: adapting. The “pizzly bear,” which won out over the name “grolar bear,” is a polar bear/grizzly bear hybrid becoming more and more common in Canada. The northern U.S. These bears are more equipped for the warming winters and rely less on ice and glaciers for survival, but the increase in pizzly bears is also a sign that the polar bear may be on its last legs. 

Why This Matters: The polar bear may be the next victim of the ongoing biodiversity crisis. Polar bears have been forced to migrate south due to rapidly melting Arctic ice and a shortage of their primary diet: seals. Researchers have found that this habitat loss has caused starvation and dangerous levels of weight loss in polar bear populations, impairing breeding. 

  • As ice melts, polar bears have to swim more to catch seals, burning more energy they consume and risking hypothermia. 
  • A U.S. Geological Survey study found that some polar bears are losing up to 5.5 pounds per day even during crucial breeding seasons.

“It is not looking good for polar bears,” according to Vanderbilt University paleontologist Larisa DeSantis.

My Cousin, Pizzly

Experts say that Pizzly bears result from grizzly and polar bear populations colliding as polar bears migrated inland toward Alaska. The groups bred new offspring that are better equipped to be omnivores and withstand warmer weather. “Only animals that were already generalized or able to adapt survived,” said DeSantis. “Specialists like the polar bear are at greater risk of extinction, especially if their habitat is literally melting away.” After observing the skulls of 20 polar bears spanning thousands of years, DeSantis concluded that the polar bear’s elongated jaw is ill-equipped for plant consumption. Plus, their highly specialized diet has left them ill-equipped for such massive environmental changes, and, as an apex predator, their decline signals terrible things for the entire Arctic ecosystem. But the Pizzly bear’s hybrid jaw is perfect for a variety of foods.  

The grizzly bear’s current range spreads from Southern Wyoming to Northern Alaska and has historically ranged as far south as Central Mexico. Because of this warm-weather resilience, the Pizzly bear has a similarly extensive range and has been spotted as far south as Idaho. Observers can tell the difference between the Pizzly and its parent species by its off-white coat and elongated nose. While a symptom of the polar bear’s decline, this new species is also a sign of hope that even in the face of climate disaster, nature can adapt and create new life.

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