The climate crisis has led to a strange new animal hybrid. Meet the 'pizzly bear.'
Screenshot via Technorites/YouTube

Most of what we hear about climate change are the challenges and potential disasters it will lead to if not mitigated. What we hear less about are the odd ways in which it's already altering our world—sometimes in big, visible ways.

Since satellites began recording Arctic sea ice levels in 1979, scientists have expressed concern about the melting ice. Not only does the planet rely on Arctic ice for regulating weather patterns, but wildlife who call the Arctic their home rely on it for survival. Polar bears are considered vulnerable to the impact of climate change, and though their numbers are holding fairly steady overall, their movement patterns are changing as their icy habitat melts.

At the same time, the movement patterns of their southern cousins, grizzly bears, are also changing. Grizzlies can be found as far south as Wyoming and up north in Alaska. But as global temperatures rise, grizzlies have moved farther north, even going as far as the high Arctic.

With polar bears moving south to find land and grizzly bears moving north to find colder temps, the two are crossing paths. The birds and the bees habit applies to bears, and since polar bears and grizzly bears share similar DNA, they are able to breed.

And they have. Hence the hybrid species known as the "pizzly bear." Also known as "grolar bear". Also known as "polizzly." (If we have to deal with a climate emergency, we can at least take a moment to appreciate getting the word polizzly out of it.)


In all seriousness, though, the emergence of the pizzly bear hybrid is a sign of climate change's impact. The first pizzly bear was officially identified in the wild in 2006, though people who live in the Arctic had reported sightings of the strange-looking bear prior to that.

As the Associated Press reported at the time:

"Northern hunters, scientists and people with vivid imaginations have discussed the possibility for years.

But Roger Kuptana, an Inuvialuit guide from Sachs Harbour, North West Territories, was the first to suspect it had actually happened when he proposed that a strange-looking bear shot last month by an American sports hunter might be half polar bear, half grizzly.

Territorial officials seized the creature after noticing its white fur was scattered with brown patches and that it had the long claws and humped back of a grizzly. Now a DNA test has confirmed that it is indeed a hybrid — possibly the first documented in the wild."

Since then, eight more pizzly bears have been identified in the wild, and as of 2017 researchers had determined that all of them sprung from one female polar bear who had mated with two different grizzly bears. However, it's unknown how many of the hybrid bears may actually exist.

Prior to their discovery in the wild, researchers knew that polar bears and grizzly bears could mate because they had already done so at Osnabrück Zoo in Germany. That zoo had kept their polar bears and grizzly bears in the same enclosure, and in 2004, two pizzly bear cubs were born. (Unfortunately, one of them was shot and killed in 2017 after she escaped from her enclosure.)

Rare Hybrid Bear of Polar Bear and Grizzly Bear www.youtube.com

Larissa DeSantis, a paleontologist and associate professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told The Independent that climate change "was definitely playing a role" bears cross-breeding. DeSantis studies the dietary habits of bears and how the climate crisis is impacting them.

"We need to study the effects of hybridization on these bears," De Santis said. "Most of the time hybrids are not more vigorous than either of the two species, as grizzlies and brown bears have unique adaptations for their particular environments. However, there are a few examples where hybrids can be more vigorous and better able to adapt to a particular environment, particularly if the environment is deviating from what it once was. This requires further study and careful monitoring. Time will tell if these hybrids are better able to withstand a warming Arctic. These hybrids might be better suited for a broader range of food sources, like the grizzly bear, and in contrast to polar bears which are hyper-specialized."

DeSantis says there is evidence that the pizzly bear hybrids are fertile, and there have been matings between a hybrid and a grizzly.

"This new type of bear is more resistant to climate change and better suited to warmer temperatures," said DeSantis. So we may see more of these hybridizations, which would be kind of cool from a biological standpoint and a bad sign from an ecological standpoint. Hard to celebrate a new species when it's a result of a crisis.

They sure are cute, though.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Photo by munshots on Unsplash

Last May, the whole world reacted to the murder of George Floyd caught on video by a quick-thinking teenage bystander. We watched the minutes tick by as Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck. We watched Floyd tell the officers he couldn't breathe and then call out for his mother. We watched him stop talking, stop moving, stop breathing while Derek Chauvin kept on kneeling with his hand in his pocket.

While most of the attention has been on Chauvin's actions in that horrifying video, there were three other police officers involved at the scene.

Three other officers who participated in either helping hold Floyd down or watching as it happened. Three officers who witnessed their colleague murder a man in plain sight, with bystanders begging them to intervene, and doing nothing to stop it. Three officers who didn't even try to resuscitate the man who had stopped breathing right in front of them.

The accountability of those officers has been in question since Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the George Floyd case. Now, a federal grand jury has indicted all four officers, including Chauvin, for willfully violating George Floyd's constitutional rights.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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