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Age 'confidence' "We have this specimen that confirms the polar bear was a morphologically distinct species at least 100,000 years ago, and this basically means that the polar bear has already survived one interglacial period," explained Professor Ingolfsson.
"And what's interesting about that is that the Eeemian - the last interglacial - was much warmer than the Holocene (the present).
One of the problems has been in finding the ancient specimens to put alongside, and constrain, these genetic estimates.
Until recently, one of the oldest polar bear specimens was thought to be British - a 70,000-year-old animal found at Kew Bridge in London.
The find is a surprise because polar bears are a relatively new species, with one study claiming they evolved less than 100,000 years ago.
If the Svalbard jawbone's status is confirmed, and further discoveries can show the iconic Arctic beasts have a deeper evolutionary heritage, then the outlook for the animals may be more positive than some believe.
Native people from Papua New Guinea in Melanesia are believed to owe between two and four per cent of their DNA to Denisovans and carry less Neanderthal DNA than other Asians."It's a huge bear; it's a runner - a hunting bear," said Andy Currant, a palaeontologist from London's Natural History Museum.