Global Warming Causing Species to, um, er, “do it” With Other Species

Given that humans are at least a “3 way” between neanderthals, denisovans, and cro magnon species, I think this has been going on for a long time. Given that polar bears evolved from brown bears (think Grizzly) they, too, have been ‘crossing’ for a very long time. But never let the truth get in the way of a good scare storey. From a magazine that at one time covered Science, but now just does political scare stories, we have:

Global Warming Spawns Hybrid Species

Call it the “grolar bear” dilemma: Are hybrids caused by climate change bad for species?

By Manon Verchot and ClimateWire | June 1, 2015
But closer analysis of genetics suggests that perception is far some settled. What is clear is that warming is increasing many opportunities for gene mixing.

“As we’ve developed genomic methodologies, we’re finding that organisms are exchanging genes with other species,” Arnold said. “Genetic exchange due to organisms coming together from climate change is the rule rather than the exception.”

Animals have been interbreeding for millennia. Even modern humans are the product of genetic exchange with Neanderthals some 60,000 years ago.

But the rate at which species interbreed is accelerating because of climate change, researchers say. As habitats and animal ranges change and bleed into one another, species that never before would have encountered one another are now mating.

So they have finally discovered that the “species barrier” is more of a species strong suggestion? Others have known this for decades to centuries. They also have this caption under a picture of the wolf-dog-coyote hybrid:

A coyote-wolf-dog hybrid that made its way to western New York in the 1940s has the combined features of stealthy coyote-like movements and a larger skull, making it better-adapted to hunting white-tailed deer.

So right there in their own article they point out the hybrid that leads to humans was 60,000 years ago (and maybe some more recent that they do not mention) and the case they showcase is from before the 1940s (since it was showing up then, the cross had to happen earlier). Both of these well before significant human derives CO2 was in the air, and before the “new little ice age scare” of the ’70s. Their own evidence shows it is not at all heat related. But they press on.

Warmer temperatures have allowed grizzly bears and polar bears to venture to habitats they don’t usually occupy and mate to form a hybrid: the pizzly or grolar bear.

Similar trends have been observed between golden-winged warblers and blue-winged warblers.

“This issue is horrendously complex because of our ability to change the environment,” said Arnold.

Considering that human activity has indirectly brought together species through planetary warming and increased fossil fuel emissions, the question on the minds of many biologists like Arnold is whether humans should play a role in preventing hybridization like this.

Polar bears and grizzly bears have been face to face and belly to belly forever. The Polar Bear is derivative of the Brown Bear (Grizzly) and the polar bear habitat begins where the brown bear starts to taper off. These too have been doing the bear dance for a very long time. That is part of WHY they can cross so easily.

While this article asserts it is very rare and behaviour keeps the two species separated, it then goes on to cite all sorts of evidence for frequent encounters and crossings. Go figure…

Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 12:00 am

Ned Rozell / Alaska Science Forum

FAIRBANKS – When he heard the news of a grizzly-polar bear hybrid shot in Canada’s Arctic last month, Tom Seaton thought back to an unusual polar bear hide he’d once seen at Nelson Walker’s home in Kotzebue.

“He had two polar bear rugs in his house — one was a huge one, and the other was special; it had lots of brown in it,” Seaton said. “It looked like a regular polar bear, but for every square inch of hide, 5 to 20 percent of the hairs were brown instead of white.”

Walker, who has since passed on, was a polar bear hunting guide in the village; Seaton was then a teenage hunter who loved to listen to Walker’s stories. He’s now a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks. Because he had heard that polar bears and brown bears had bred successfully in a zoo, Seaton was pretty sure Walker’s white-and-brown hide was from the mating of a polar bear and a brown bear.

So an adult, back when he was a kid, saw a hybrid rug that had been there who knows how long. But certainly before the recent spike up in CO2 and likely just about that “new little ice age scare” of the ’70s.

UAF scientists doing genetic testing about a decade ago found that grizzly bears may be the ancestral fathers of polar bears
, which over many thousands of years perhaps evolved to life on sea ice by developing all-white coats, furry feet, and teeth designed to rip seal flesh. People sometimes see the two bears together at whale carcasses, such as at a bowhead whale boneyard outside Kaktovik, where in fall both polar and grizzly bears feast on the remains of whales harvested by villagers. Those who have seen the bears there say that the grizzlies, often smaller than the polar bears, dominate the encounter.

“They are two very different animals as far as behavior goes,” said Geoff York, a polar bear researcher at the USGS Science Center in Anchorage. “When a brown bear comes in at the bone pile, it chases off all the polar bears.”

Dick Shideler, a biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks who studies the farthest-north grizzly, has documented grizzly bears on the sea ice north off Alaska’s coast.
“We’ve radio collared a grizzly bear who hunts seals in the spring,” Shideler said. “Our pilot has tracked him on the ice, going from hole to hole. He’s figured it out.”

Shideler also said biologists from the Northwest Territories have in the past shared reports of what could have been hybrid bears.
“There was a grizzly up there towards Banks Island that killed a bunch of seals, and (a pilot) tracked it and saw its tracks intersecting with those of a polar bear,” he said.
The carpet of tracks on the snow looked like the bears could have mated, Shideler said.
“The next year a helicopter pilot saw a female with darker cubs,” he said. “And (hybrids) have been reported quite a few times by Natives (of Canada’s Arctic).”
Biologists don’t think “grolar bears” could outcompete either species; a hybrid probably wouldn’t forage on land as well as a grizzly bear, and a mottled brown coat wouldn’t be the best camouflage on sea ice.

Quite simply, they are “kissing cousins” and while they are somewhat specialized, each can work the other turf if needed and they are quite happy to recognize each other as bears.

The SciAm article goes on:

A threat to genetic diversity?
Montana’s Flathead Basin has long been a spawning haven for the westslope cutthroat trout. But as waters in the region warm, rainbow trout have swum up from the western lakes where they were introduced decades ago to cutthroat native grounds.

As rainbow trout meet and interbreed with dwindling cutthroat trout populations, the survival of cutthroat trout is at risk. Instead, a hybrid species is taking its place.

Now I personally remember the cutthroat being endangered by the introduced by government rainbow trout from back in the ’70s. It was cold then. Cold enough folks were hawking a New Little Ice Age scare. Snowed in my home town then (twice) and that was a “once in a lifetime” event there.

At the time, cutthroat reduction was simply attributed to an alien introduced species migrating from where it was stocked into the tributaries. All sorts of lesser California native trout have been so impacted. Some via rainbows eating their fry. Others via food competition. And others still from hybridization and swamping. (How do you compete with an infinite sized gene pool for the invader as they are still being stocked?…)

So to me this just stinks of “rebranding” a government perpetrated stupidity as “Global Warming” by the warm-mongers.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I also remember in the ’60s going fishing for trout with my Dad in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We caught some brook trout, and in the larger streams, some cutthroat (they have a distinctive red line along the gill plate near the ‘throat’). But the big prize was the larger, stronger, and more “fight in them” rainbow trout (named for a rainbow like swath of colors on the side). Even then, there were a couple we caught that were a bit hard to decide just what they were… I liked the cutthroat as an interesting trout that was tasty and frankly, didn’t mind that they were easier to catch with less ‘fight’. I don’t particularly want them to be wiped out.

But at the same time, “trout is trout”. Once in the pan and on the plate, I can’t tell them apart. They are all salmonids, and they have a pretty easy time crossing. Given any geologic scale time period, species change and evolve. Modern humans only came into existence a million years or so ago (and the oldest start of pre-humans is about 6 million years back). In another million years it is highly unlikely that “humans” then will be humans as we know them. Or that the trout will not have changed too.

It is an incredible fool’s errand to think you can take 4 Billion years of evolution and freeze it at a moment in time. The whole process is set up to encourage change and adaptation so that survival of the lineage continues. IFF that red throat mark confers some kind of advantage, the hybrid will evolve back that way. If the rainbow markings are an advantage, the other way. If it is just a minor decorative difference, then who cares? Apparently not the fish, who think each other acceptable partners.

Even before that much time passes, we have at most 2000 years to the next glacial. Potentially it can happen as soon as a couple of hundred years (and we might be in the entry to it now, but it is hard to tell as geological scale things happen so slowly). So those trout in those rivers WILL have a major issue in their face within a very short period of time in evolutionary terms. Ice a mile thick kind of messes up your day as a fish. There will be a horrific disruption of the species found “in the wild” over all of Alaska, Canada, Northern USA and potentially even down into the southern states as they become cooler and wetter. When that happens, the minor color difference between cutthroat and rainbow will hardly matter, as something else will be the survivor. Perhaps one of them, or their hybrid, or some other fish entirely.

In some of the lakes of the Pacific Northwest (such as Crater Lake) there are salmon. I’m talking full sized migrate to the ocean salmon. Except they can’t migrate. They got trapped in some event (stocked in the case of Crater Lake), and had to deal with a ‘fresh water only’ life cycle. In the Amazon there is a freshwater dolphin. (The air breathing mammal kind). The Amazon at one time drained into the Pacific. Mountain uplift cut off that river and a giant lake formed. Then, long after those dolphin evolved into the fresh water dolphin, the Amazon River cut down to the Atlantic. Now we have a new species that doesn’t bother going back to the ocean. Think anyone can stop those kinds of changes? It is madness to think we are in control. At best, for single events like introducing an alien species, we can cause an unpredictable shift; but that is hardly control.

In Conclusion

Back on that fishing trip in the ’60s, my Dad was thrilled to catch a cutthroat (it was about a foot long ;-) and said then that the rainbow was pushing them out. Yet the introduction of the rainbow trout was widely touted as “improving the sport fishery”. Since then, my avid fisherman brother-in-law has caught dozens of rainbow trout each year. I can’t say the program failed to achieve the objective.

Now you can argue over the merit of that program, but trying to rebrand it as “global warming” is just a flat out lie.

IMHO, Scientific (sic) American stopped having much to do with Science when it was bought by the Germans some years back. As of now, it is largely just a propaganda rag looking to fan social angst; near as I can tell. Yet even at that, this particular story is just so blatantly wrong and stupid on the face of it, even incorporating as evidence for their story the very proof that it is not related to warming (that clearly wasn’t happening in the ’40s and ’70s – as evidenced by the New Little Ice Age scare then, and the various temperature data sets).

The stupid, it burns…

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in AGW and GIStemp Issues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Global Warming Causing Species to, um, er, “do it” With Other Species

  1. M Simon says:

    GMO bears? We need to make that illegal. It is as bad as race mixing. Does global warming cause that too? Purity of essence.

  2. M Simon says:

    And just to pull an OM. Here is what I have been up to lately:

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @M Simon:

    Nifty Gizmo! Somehow kind of mesmerizing to watch the needle wobble and know that it means folks are actually adding / removing load and supply…

    And, per ‘race mixing’, in theory they were talking about species, not races, so that would require a, um, er, Chimp or Gorilla or something… (To quote Disney “We wants the RedHead!” or maybe an Orangutan…) And no, I’m not going to entertain the thought no matter how hot it gets! (YMMV)

    Aside: And what does “OM” stand for? Own Message? Old Man? Oh My?

  4. omanuel says:

    @M. Simon – That power grid frequency meter is intriguing.

    @E.M.Smith – The dark side of science is more intriguing than sex:

    Click to access Introduction.pdf

  5. Graeme No.3 says:

    “Scientific (sic) American stopped having much to do with Science when it was bought by the Germans some years back”. Now you tell me. I just bought my first copy since 2002 when they unloaded an entire issue on Lomborg for questioning stupidity.
    I wanted the article on the evolution of Tyrannosaurs. It didn’t say much new to me but I suppose someone who hadn’t read anything about dinosaurs for the last 20 years might have been a bit more appreciative.

  6. LeeHarvey says:

    So let me get this straight – they’re complaining because they think that brown bears should only get it on with other brown bears, and white bears should only be with other white bears?

    Sounds vaguely racist…

  7. Gary says:

    At least part of the issue with preserving native trout species is that purist fly fisherman, as represented by Trout Unlimited for example, are a lot like birders. They want to compile a list of native subspecies they’ve caught so as to brag to other fishermen. Nothing particularly wrong with that, as interesting story-telling is a long-time part of the sport. And to be fair, TU works hard to restore habitat such as the Red Brook stream on Cape Cod that holds sea-run brook trout that were nearly wiped out by a hundred years of cranberry bog damming. There’s something compelling about experiencing a rarity such as catching (and releasing) a unique fish. Rainbows you can find in a thousand places, but not the “salter.” So really it’s all about what we appreciate and value. Nature will continue, as the botanist Harold Bold said, “mock at human categories.”

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    One of my friends, that was a part of “Trout Unlimited” and their effort to establish a “Trophy Trout” designation on a local stream, asked me how they could improve the Salmon run in that stream.
    I told him “Get rid of the Trout in that stream” He was horrified ” We can’t do That!” he said.
    All trout feed on Salmon eggs and large trout specially feed on Salmon fry. I told him. you can’t have both! Why is it “sportsmen” think they can “win” without creating losers? Destroying others lives so that they can play. Bunch of psychopaths. pg

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    I was once fairly strongly “in to” fish raising. I was playing with the tech of aquaculture. Eventually had about 250 gallons of tilapia in tanks, and a modest sized portable swimming pool set up in the yard with fish in it. (It works fairly well as a low cost aquaculture operation). I learned a lot.

    Now one of the things I learned was very early on. When I had a 50 gallon tank and was playing with a variety of different species. (One was an albino “blue catfish”… these are from the Mississippi and related rivers though as an all white sport, and can grow to about as big as a person… an interesting problem in a 50 gallon tank…). Before even they had been added to the tank, I was using more normal hobby fish. On asking the fish vendor: “Does {proposed new species} eat {species I already had}?” the vendor replied with one of the best bits of wisdom I have ever heard with respect to fish predation:

    “Big fish eat little fish.”

    And since Trout are far larger than salmon eggs, well, lunch is served.


    I remember that kind of fun when we tried fishing a very small mountain brook. “Brook Trout” are small, but feisty, and very hard to catch.

    FWIW, I never could get into the idea of “catch and release”. Either I’m hungry and going to eat that fish, or why am I inflicting pain and suffering on a fellow life form for my own pleasure? It’s just built into me that “if you catch it, you ought to eat it”. Something about that Amish frugality and not wasting things, or hurting animals for no higher need. Not interested in pushing my morals onto others, just saying that’s how I react. I know others have their own matrix, and that’s fine. I can enjoy watching them…

    Oddly enough, the rainbow was originally from north Pacific range. You only find it everywhere because it was selected by some early fish biologists as the one to spread around.

    From the wiki:

    The native range of Oncorhynchus mykiss is in the coastal waters and tributary streams of the Pacific basin, from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, east along the Aleutian Islands, throughout southwest Alaska, the Pacific coast of British Columbia and southeast Alaska, and south along the west coast of the U.S. to northern Mexico.

    Note that this depends on counting the ocean run steelhead forms as well.

    “Steelhead” redirects here. For other uses, see Steelhead (disambiguation).

    The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a trout and species of salmonid native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. The steelhead (sometimes called “steelhead trout”) is an anadromous (sea-run) form of the coastal rainbow trout (O. m. irideus) or Columbia River redband trout (O. m. gairdneri) that usually returns to fresh water to spawn after living two to three years in the ocean. Freshwater forms that have been introduced into the Great Lakes and migrate into tributaries to spawn are also called steelhead.

    So is it a trout or a salmon?… Most folks here compromise by just calling them “steelhead” if ocean run or “rainbow trout” if limited to lakes and rivers. It can get quite big, though…

    Really, all trout and salmon are “salmonids” and more the same than different. Toss in char and a few others too.

    So these guys were mostly ocean run salmonids, with some populations staying in ocean connected rivers and the occasional natural lakes. Then fish biologists picked them up and started moving them all over the world.

    Artificial propagation
    [Photo of raceways as at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish hatchery\
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish hatchery

    Since 1870, rainbow trout have been artificially propagated in fish hatcheries to restock streams and to introduce them into non-native waters. The first rainbow trout hatchery was established on San Leandro Creek, a tributary of San Francisco Bay, in 1870, and trout production began in 1871. The hatchery was stocked with the locally native rainbow trout, and likely steelhead of the coastal rainbow trout subspecies (O. m. irideus).

    The fish raised in this hatchery were shipped to hatcheries out of state for the first time in 1875, to Caledonia, New York, and then in 1876 to Northville, Michigan. In 1877, another California rainbow trout hatchery, the first federal fish hatchery in the National Fish Hatchery System, was established on Campbell Creek, a McCloud River tributary. The McCloud River hatchery indiscriminately mixed coastal rainbow trout eggs with the eggs of local McCloud River redband trout (O. m. stonei). Eggs from the McCloud hatchery were also provided to the San Leandro hatchery, thus making the origin and genetic history of hatchery-bred rainbow trout somewhat diverse and complex.

    In the U.S., there are hundreds of hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various state agencies and tribal governments propagating rainbow trout for conservation and recreational sport fishing. Six of ten Canadian provinces have rainbow trout farms, with Ontario leading production.

    So from the earliest days the hatchery “rainbow trout” were a hybrid of three types. That was then shipped all over the place and introduced indiscriminately. Nothing at all to do with “warming” causing the hybridizing, and nothing now causing it either. These fish live in water of specific temperature ranges. Too warm, they are extirpated. If other salmonids are present, they will hybridize or outcompete, rarely though sometimes having both populations survive, but even then usually with one suffering pressure.


    Giggle! Cute, very cute… Those nasty ol’ racist greens ;-)

    @Graeme No.3:

    Yes, the Germans turned it from an actual Science magazine that had technical articles in it, into a Pop Sci with Credentials kind of thing. Average IQ / Education target moved from “College Grad with Tech Degree, preferably Masters or better” to “Average Person with some college, likely liberal arts”. They wanted to appeal to a broader demographic. In fairness, SciAm was losing money and would likely have gone under if not repurposed… But it’s not my demographic anymore.


    Nice summary of your position. As I’ve suggested before, the red type on bright yellow highlight looks a bit “extreme” and you would likely be taken a bit more seriously with just one or the other of the two.

  10. Chris in Calgary says:

    Species barrier? If there’s something that’s anthropogenic, it’s species classification. Nature doesn’t worry about how we classify things. Really.

    Animals just go about their business producing new animals. If they happen to mate with a less closely related animal, then perhaps you get another new “species”. One could argue that the ability to procreate with more-distantly-related animals than normal is an evolutionary advantage in itself.

    > Sounds vaguely racist

    One valid argument made against racism, is that there’s more variation within individual “races” than between the “races”. You could make that distinction about certain related species, too. Take dogs for example. A Husky looks to be nearer a wolf than either a Great Dane or a Chihuaua.

    All it would take would be a paradigm shift in science to completely obliterate the Linnean (etc.) classification scheme and replace it with something new. Paradigm shifts happen more often than you think (see ‘Evolution’, ‘Continental Drift’, ‘Dark Energy’) — and we really need some of those at this point in time.

    “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” — Richard Horton, editor of the highly regarded British medical journal, The Lancet (

    N’est-ce pas?

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Chris in Calgary:

    That “paradigm shift” to obliterate the Linnaean system of classification is already underway (and has been for about 35? years). It is genetic cladistics.

    In the 1990s, the development of effective polymerase chain reaction techniques allowed the application of cladistic methods to biochemical and molecular genetic traits of organisms, as well as to anatomical ones, vastly expanding the amount of data available for phylogenetics. At the same time, cladistics rapidly became the dominant set of methods of phylogenetics in evolutionary biology, because computers made it possible to process large quantities of data about organisms and their characteristics.

    Yes, 1990 to now is only 25 years, but back in the late ’70s / early ’80s the cladistics phase was already underway using less genetic oriented approaches, so it is justified to say that the revolution began before the particular cannon was invented…

  12. Chris in Calgary says:


    Thanks for the introduction to Cladistics. Looks fascinating, and applicable in many areas.

    I read your blog because I learn so much from it. Thanks for another gem.

Comments are closed.