All Polar Bears Can Trace Lineage Back to Ireland, Insert Whiskey-to-Stay-Warm Joke Here

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Geneticists studying the DNA of bears have come to a very festive conclusion about polar bears: they can all trace their lineage back to brown bears from Ireland. There are so many jokes to be made, none of them are polite. I’m not Irish, but Susana is part-Irish, and she’s given me permission. And some of my best friends are Irish. So let’s just get this out there: We’re going to make ethnic jokes about the Irish.

Beth Shapiro, who is an associate professor of biology at Penn State University and the co-author of a new study published in Current Biology, says that the mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited from your mother) of polar bears and brown bears — the bears from Ireland — only diverged about 20,000-30,000 years ago.

Shapiro says what probably happened is that the Ice Age brought polar bears and brown bears back together, as encroaching ice drove both kinds of bears to the very edges of their habitats. “And when they overlapped, they were able to breed,” she says.

But when the ice receded, the brown bears went back to being brown bears, and the polar bears went back to their icy habitat and bred with each other to produce more polar bears — just with a little extra DNA.

Now that they know this, expect a lot of polar bears to float down from the Arctic on the last chunks of the iceberg to get soused at Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, start showing up in bars once the temperature goes back to freezing, punching their moms, punching all of our moms, carrying around novelty shillelaghs and breaking windows, and then having three dozen children, all of them less than a year apart.

Okay, so I’m German, French, English, with some Jewish and Cherokee Indian, and my great-grandfather was a singing waiter-slash-boxer named Valentine. Oh, and half my family is from the South, and another part of my family are firefighters. Or just go with “incredibly white.” Please — feel free to go crazy.

(NPR via I Heart Chaos)


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