Brown Bear Print
£5.50 – £18.00
Canvas print of the puma image is available from stock
There are many methods used by scientists to define bear species and subspecies, as no one method is always effective. Brown bear taxonomy and subspecies classification has been described as “formidable and confusing,” with few authorities listing the same specific set of subspecies. Genetic testing is now perhaps the most important way to scientifically define brown bear relationships and names. Generally, genetic testing uses the word clade rather than species because a genetic test alone cannot define a biological species. Most genetic studies report on how closely related the bears are (or their genetic distance). There are hundreds of obsolete brown bear subspecies, each with its own name, and this can become confusing; Hall (1981) lists 86 different types, and even as many as 90 have been proposed. However, recent DNA analysis has identified as few as five main clades which contain all extant brown bears, while a 2017 phylogenetic study revealed nine clades, including one representing polar bears. As of 2005, 15 extant or recently extinct subspecies were recognized by the general scientific community.
As well as the exact number of overall brown bear subspecies, its precise relationship to the polar bear also remains in debate. The polar bear is a recent offshoot of the brown bear. The point at which the polar bear diverged from the brown bear is unclear, with estimations based on genetics and fossils ranging from 400,000 to 70,000 years ago, but most recent analysis has indicated that the polar bear split somewhere between 275,000 and 150,000 years ago.Under some definitions, the brown bear can be construed as the paraspecies for the polar bear.
DNA analysis shows that, apart from recent human-caused population fragmentation, brown bears in North America are generally part of a single interconnected population system, with the exception of the population (or subspecies) in the Kodiak Archipelago, which has probably been isolated since the end of the last Ice Age. These data demonstrate that U. a. gyas, U. a. horribilis, U. a. sitkensis and U. a. stikeenensis are not distinct or cohesive groups, and would more accurately be described as ecotypes. For example, brown bears in any particular region of the Alaska coast are more closely related to adjacent grizzly bears than to distant populations of brown bears, the morphological distinction seemingly driven by brown bears having access to a rich salmon food source, while grizzly bears live at higher elevation, or further from the coast, where plant material is the base of the diet. The history of the bears of the Alexander Archipelago is unusual in that these island populations carry polar bear DNA, presumably originating from a population of polar bears that was left behind at the end of the Pleistocene, but have since been connected with adjacent mainland populations through movement of males, to the point where their nuclear genomes are now more than 90% of brown bear ancestry.
Brown bears are apparently divided into five different clades, some of which coexist or co-occur in different regions.
7×5, 10×8, A4, A3