Researchers decipher genetic material of the brown bear

Comparison with the Eisb ren genome could explain adaptation to different habitats

Top Carnivor Braunb r: a generalist © US Fish and Wildlife Service
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Scientists have succeeded in deciphering the genome of the brown bear completely. The genetic tests were carried out on a male animal that lived in the Pasviktal in northern Norway, the researchers say. The new data would be very important as they could now be compared to the recently published genetic information of polar bears.

"We now have the plan of the brown bear and polar bear. This is an excellent basis for researching the genetic adaptation of these species to different climatic conditions, "says study leader Axel Janke from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F) in Frankfurt am Main. In addition, the present genome information could be used to investigate important questions concerning the biology of the bears. The aim is to better understand these animals and thus better protect them. The brown bear is not considered endangered. His habitat has been shrinking for some time.

In the future, however, the brown bear genome should also serve as the basis for a series of investigations into the behavior and distribution of brown bears. "In the genome of the brown bear, the history of the species is immortalized, but it will take years to completely reconstruct it, " suspects Janke.

Brown bears weigh more than a small car

Brown bears, which include the Grizzlys and Kodiak bears, today live mainly in Alaska, Canada and North Asia. The mighty animals are around three meters long, 1.50 meters high and can weigh up to 800 kilograms. Together with the Arctic polar bears threatened by climate change, they are the largest land predators on earth.

As BiK-F scientists recently discovered, the two species evolved from a common ancestor nearly a million years ago. The species are thus much older than a long time thought. The close relationship between the two animals makes them so interesting for science, the researchers say. display

Genetics comparison of brown and polar bears planned

A genetic comparison can reveal how the two bear species have adapted in the course of evolution to each different habitats, the scientists hope. For this, it is necessary to identify the genes that enable a mammal to survive in the Arctic or temperate climates.

The analysis of the huge new data has already begun, say the researchers. First results are expected soon.

"Genetic comparison of humans, Neanderthals and chimpanzees has already given us important insights into evolution, " says Janke. The bears are now the second group of mammals in which nearly complete genomes of close relatives could be analyzed. This will make the Pilot-b r from the Pasviktal immortal for science, the researcher speculates.

(Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F) / dapd, 13.10.2011 - DLO)