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Genomic Analysis Points to Hybrid Speciation for Asiatic Black Bear

A team from Yunnan University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other centers in China, Germany, and the UK shares findings from a comparative genomic and phylogenetic analysis of Asiatic black bears, which were analyzed alongside American black bears, sun bears, sloth bears, and a spectacled bear. By generating 43 new bear genomes and analyzing them in conjunction with 18 bear sequences reported previously, the researchers traced Asiatic black bears back to ancestors that are shared with a polar bear, brown bear, and American black bear lineage as well as the lineage that led to sun and sloth bears. Such hybrid speciation "is thought to be rare in mammals," the authors write, noting that "we identified key genes involved in the intermediate body size phenotype of the Asiatic bear and propose its likely reproductive isolation from its parental lineages through alternate inheritance of diverged loci."