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Molecular genetics are key to understanding current and historical relationships between isolated populations, including species’ colonizations during glacial–interglacial cycles, to determine viability of local populations, needs for habitat corridors, and other aspects of population management, especially where bears are harvested for sport, etc. As natural habitats shrink, some bear species will inevitably require high levels of management, perhaps combining captive and wild populations following the IUCN’s One Plan Approach. In this chapter we review the systematics of the Ursidae and its relationships with other Carnivora, the molecular phylogenetic of extant ursid species, the phylogeography of and morphological variation within each species, and the use of molecular genetics to monitor bear populations for management and conservation.
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