It all started with a fossil.
“We have this polar bear jawbone from the Svalbard archipelago in the North Atlantic,” says Charlotte Lindqvist, a professor at SUNY Buffalo and lead author of a landmark new study into the history of polar bears.
An ancient species
Lindqvist, along with researchers from over two dozen institutions, assembled the ancient polar bear’s genome from this 130,000 year old bone. As one of the oldest polar bear remains ever found, this toothless facial fossil opened a window for scientists to guess how the animal survived past periods of climate change.
The study -- published earlier this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- also determined the polar bears species to be about four to five million years old – more than seven times older than previously thought.