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Biol Lett. 2013 May 15;9(4):20130281. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0281. Print 2013 Aug 23.

Could brown bears (Ursus arctos) have survived in Ireland during the Last Glacial Maximum?

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, UK.

Abstract

Brown bears are recorded from Ireland during both the Late Pleistocene and early-mid Holocene. Although most of the Irish landmass was covered by an ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), Irish brown bears are known to have hybridized with polar bears during the Late Pleistocene, and it is suggested that the Irish brown bear population did not become extinct but instead persisted in situ through the LGM in a southwestern ice-free refugium. We use historical population modelling to demonstrate that brown bears are highly unlikely to have survived through the LGM in Ireland under any combination of life-history parameters shown by living bear populations, but instead would have rapidly become extinct following advance of the British-Irish ice sheet, and probably recolonized Ireland during the end-Pleistocene Woodgrange Interstadial from a closely related nearby source population. The time available for brown bear-polar bear hybridization was therefore restricted to narrow periods at the beginning or end of the LGM. Brown bears would have been extremely vulnerable to extinction in Quaternary habitat refugia and required areas substantially larger than southwestern Ireland to survive adverse glacial conditions.

KEYWORDS:

hybridization; mammal extinction; migration; population viability analysis; refugium

PMID:
23676655
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3730640
Free PMC Article
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