The Wildlife Research and Development Section is based in Peterborough, Ontario but conducts research throughout the province. The research conducted by this team greatly improves the understanding and management of Ontario's wildlife and its habitat.
You’ll find information here about the ministry’s wildlife research projects, links to our partners and other information about the great wildlife research taking place throughout the province.
MNR contributes to significant polar bear research findings
An analysis of newly sequenced polar bear genomes is providing important clues about the species’ evolution, suggesting that climate change and genetic exchange with brown bears helped create the polar bear as we know it today.
A recent international study found evidence that the size of the polar bear population fluctuated with key climatic events over the past million years, growing during periods of cooling and shrinking in warmer times.
The results of this research were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Read more about the research:
- Download the publication here (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
- How Brown and Polar Bears Split Up, but Continued Coupling (The New York Times)
- Polar bear evolution tracked climate change, new DNA study suggests (University of Buffalo)
Wolf-coyote research featured on the Discovery Channel!
This fall, the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet produced a segment featuring fieldwork by John Benson and crew about how MNR is studying wolf pups to understand hybridization – or interbreeding – between eastern wolves and coyotes. Check out the amazing video here.
Feature project: Flying Squirrel Research
The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program joined Dr. Jeff Bowman, MNR research scientist, and Colin Garroway, Trent University graduate student, to check out MNR’s flying squirrel research.
Their recent study, which looked at flying squirrel distribution, genetics, and impacts of climate change, has shown that flying squirrels are on the move—with some interesting outcomes. With a recent run of warm winters, southern flying squirrels are travelling much farther north than their historical northern range-limit. This expansion in range has brought them much closer to their related counterpart, the northern flying squirrel.
By tagging and taking DNA samples of both flying squirrel species from across the area where these two species overlap, they realized that southern flying squirrels were moving into northerners’ territory and as a result, were finding hybrid flying squirrels. In fact, it was determined that at least 4% of the animals were genetic hybrids.
What does it all mean?
This is the first contemporary evidence of hybridization between species that is directly attributable to climate change.
It shows that climate change can cause rapid shifts to species’ ranges and can result in interbreeding of two closely related species.
Hybridization can affect how well a population is going to do, since new genes are introduced to the species.
Check out a few flying squirrels and learn more about the project on the Daily Planet’s MNR flying squirrel story.
(It’s the second story in the clip - scroll to 4:50 to watch the segment)