This Week in California Wild is a joint project of California Wild,the science and natural history magazine published by the California Academy of Sciences, and the Biodiversity Resource Center, a branch of the Academy's Library. Each week library and magazine staffs cull a wide variety of news sources to compile the most important and interesting natural science stories.
To contact This Week in California Wild e-mail email@example.com or write to Kathleen Wong, This Week in California Wild, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118
Stories adapted by
MATTHEW BETTELHEIM and BETSY MASON
The striking white coat of British Colombia's rare spirit bear is the only thing that differentiates the bear from the ordinary black bear. Now researchers have discovered that a change in a single gene is responsible for the difference. Only 100 to 200 of the spirit, or kermode, bears remain in the rain forests of the British Colombian coast. To study the genetics of these bears, Kermit Ritland and colleagues at the University of British Colombia collected and analyzed hair shed by the animals. They discovered a change in a single base pair of a recessive gene responsible for telling certain cells to make black and yellow pigment. The change stops the production of both pigments, leaving the bears snow white. Black bears with only one "white" gene are uncommon, indicating that white bears may prefer to mate with each other, Ritland says. The analysis, reported in the journal Current Biology, should help the Canadian government develop better conservation plans for the animal.
|Inscight at www.academicpress.com/inscight/09182001/graphb.htm - no longer available, 09/19/03|
(c) 2001, California Academy of Sciences