Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study Of Bear Hair Will Reveal Genetic Diversity Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies

Date:
December 24, 2007
Source:
Montana State University
Summary:
Montana State University's library of 400 grizzly bear hair samples will be analyzed to determine the genetic diversity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population. The study will also determine if bears from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem are adding their genetic diversity to the Yellowstone group.

A curious bear investigates the smell of blood near a wire hair snag.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Mark Haroldson

Locks of hair from more than 400 grizzly bears are stored at Montana State University, waiting to tell the tale of genetic diversity in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Ranging from pale blond to almost black, the hair is filed in a chest freezer where the temperature is minus-77.8 degrees. Some of the tufts are almost 25 years old.

The hair will head to Canada in a few months to be analyzed at Wildlife Genetics International in Nelson, British Columbia, said Chuck Schwartz, head of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team based at MSU. The team is monitoring the genetic diversity of the Yellowstone grizzlies over time and wants to know when new DNA appears. The team will also compare the Yellowstone bears with those in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem where a similar study has been done.

"An objective of the study is to determine if bears from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem migrate to the Yellowstone," Schwartz said.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem includes Glacier National Park, parts of the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests, five wilderness areas and Bureau of Land Management property in northwest Montana. The Yellowstone Ecosystem includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, six national forests, and state and private land in portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

An estimated 550 to 600 grizzlies live in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, about twice what it was 20 years ago, but the population currently lacks diversity, Schwartz said.

"We know it's low," he said. "There are concerns about inbreeding and other issues because we don't have new genes flowing into the system on a regular basis."

Field crews from a variety of federal and state agencies plucked the hair the study team is storing, Schwartz continued. Each lock came from somewhere off the bears' shoulders, but the way it was collected varied. Some of the bears died of natural causes or were killed by humans. Other bears were temporarily unconscious while scientists fit them with radio collars or moved them to another location after they'd gotten into trouble. Some bears left hair behind while crawling underneath barbed wire.

"The vast majority of the time, it is routine," Mark Haroldson said of the collection process. Haroldson is a supervisory wildlife biologist with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. He has collected bear hair since the late 1980s.

Schwartz said researchers in Idaho can tell him if the hair came from one bear or several. They can tell him the bear's gender and whether the hair came from a bear at all. To answer the tougher questions, Schwartz turns to the Wildlife Genetics International, which routinely analyzes hair from grizzlies, black bears, wolverines and other wildlife in Canada and the United States. The Canadian lab examined the grizzly hair from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. It also analyzes hair collected by MSU graduate students in Yosemite National Park in California and Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Bear hair is tricky because the amount of DNA it contains is so small, said Steven Kalinowski, the students' adviser and a conservation geneticist in MSU's ecology department. Jennifer Weldon, manager of the Canadian lab, said dirty hair can challenge some researchers. So can hair that came from a dead animal and spent so much time in the elements that the DNA degraded.

Schwartz said shafts of the Yellowstone hair will eventually return to MSU so he can conduct other tests and have samples available when new study techniques are developed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Montana State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Montana State University. "Study Of Bear Hair Will Reveal Genetic Diversity Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071218134821.htm>.
Montana State University. (2007, December 24). Study Of Bear Hair Will Reveal Genetic Diversity Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071218134821.htm
Montana State University. "Study Of Bear Hair Will Reveal Genetic Diversity Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071218134821.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Shoppers at an Oregon drug store were surprised by a bear cub scurrying down the aisles this past weekend. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

Family Pleads for Pet Pig to Stay at Home

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) The Johnson family lost their battle with the Chesterfield County, Virginia Planning Commission to allow Tucker, their pet pig, to stay in their home, but refuse to let the board keep Tucker away. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins