Gobi bear
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
U. a. gobiensis
Trinomial name
Ursus arctos gobiensis
Sokolov & Orlov, 1920
Displays the habitat of the Gobi Bear and the location of the desert in Mongolia.

The Gobi bear (Ursus arctos gobiensis), known in Mongolian as the Mazaalai (Мазаалай), is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) that is found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.[2] It is listed as critically endangered by the Mongolian Redbook of Endangered Species and by IUCN standards.[3] Currently, there are only 31 (95% CI: 32-38) bears left in the Mongolian Gobi Desert; through long-term genetic monitoring it is known that the population is relatively stable, however, the sex ratio is highly skewed towards males.[4] Gobi bears are separated by enough distance from other brown bear populations to achieve reproductive isolation. In 1959, hunting of the animal was prohibited in order to preserve the dying subspecies.[5]


Gobi bears mainly eat roots, berries, and other plants, sometimes rodents; there is no evidence that they prey on large mammals. The diet of a Gobi Bear is only about 8% animal protein.[6] Small compared to other brown bear subspecies, adult males weigh about 96.0–138.0 kg (211.6–304.2 lb) and females about 51.0–78.0 kg (112.4–172.0 lb).[7] Gobi bears are the only bears that have evolved and adapted to living in such extreme hot desert climates.[4] They have a very low genetic diversity,[8][9] among the lowest ever observed in any subspecies of brown bear, as it is one of the smallest and most isolated brown bear populations in the world.[4] Levels of genetic diversity similar to the Gobi bears have been reported only in a small population of brown bears in the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of Spain and France. The low genetic diversity is the result of Gobi bears having a highly skewed sex ratio of males to females.[8] In addition, research has shown there is a low number of alleles per locus in their DNA. This means that Gobi bear DNA is fragile and therefore affects their reproduction.[4]

Conservation and research

The Gobi bear population is restricted to 23,600 km2 (9,100 sq mi) in areas that are in close proximity to water sources (Reynolds et al. 2010, Luvsamjamba et al. 2016), and the population is isolated from other populations by inhospitable low elevation deserts, pastoral activities, and human settlements.[4] A conservation measure for the Gobi Bear has been in place since 1985, which is a supplemental feeding program, pellets containing wheat (Triticum aestivum), corn (Zea mays), carrots (Daucus carota sativus), and turnips (Brassica rapa) are provided in spring and autumn at feeders located near selected waterholes throughout the GGSPA A.[6]

Previously, Gobi brown bear has sometimes, been classified as being in the same subspecies as the Tibetan blue bear based on geography or Himalayan brown bear[10] based on mitochondrial short fragments studies. However, the recent whole-genome and larger mitochondrial DNA analyses revealed that Gobi and Himalayan brown bears are already diverged lineages and have a shared ancestry, the oldest lineage of all other brown bears.[2][9] A 263 base-pair segment of the mitochondrial DNA was sequenced for 3 bears and a single haplotype was gained. This haplotype was closely related to brown bear haplotypes from Pakistan. The low levels of genetic diversity supports the idea that the Gobi bears are isolated from other brown bear populations.[11]

A total of 51 bears were found between 2007-2018 based on the systematic sampling, but the population size is relatively stable (31 bears, 95% CI: 32-38) based on the long-term study. Efforts to protect the Gobi bear's population have included a supplemental feeding program, where pellets containing wheat, corn, carrots, and turnips are provided at feeders located near selected waterholes throughout the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area (GGSPA).[8][4]


  1. ^ "IUCN Brown Bear subspecies status". Retrieved August 29, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Tumendemberel, Odbayar; Hendricks, Sarah A.; Hohenlohe, Paul A.; Sullivan, Jack; Zedrosser, Andreas; Sæbø, Mona; Proctor, Michael F.; Koprowski, John L.; Waits, Lisette P. (August 2023). "Range‐wide evolutionary relationships and historical demography of brown bears (Ursus arctos) revealed by whole‐genome sequencing of isolated central Asian populations". Molecular Ecology. 32 (18): 5156–5169. doi:10.1111/mec.17091. ISSN 0962-1083. PMID 37528604. S2CID 260375812.
  3. ^ "Ursus arctos". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. doi:10.2305/iucn.uk.2017-1.rlts.t41688a114261661.en.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Tumendemberel, Odbayar; Tebbenkamp, Joel M.; Zedrosser, Andreas; Proctor, Michael F.; Blomberg, Erik J.; Morin, Dana J.; Rosell, Frank; Reynolds, Harry V.; Adams, Jennifer R.; Waits, Lisette P. (August 2021). "Long‐term monitoring using DNA sampling reveals the dire demographic status of the critically endangered Gobi bear". Ecosphere. 12 (8). doi:10.1002/ecs2.3696. ISSN 2150-8925. S2CID 238813970.  This article incorporates text available under the CC BY 3.0 license.
  5. ^ A, Bold (1967). "Mongolian brown bear & Gobi bear-mazaalai". Proceedings of the Institute of Biology. N2: 5–47.
  6. ^ a b Batmunkh, Mijiddorj (2006). Some biological and ecological specifics of Gobi bear, its protection (PhD Dissertation ed.). Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: National University of Mongolia.
  7. ^ "Gobi bear conservation in Mongolia" (PDF). July 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-22. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  8. ^ a b c Odbayar Tumendemberel; Michael Proctor; Harry Reynolds; John Boulanger; Amgalan Luvsamjamba; Tuya Tserenbataa; Mijiddorj Batmunkh; Derek Craighead; Nyambayar Yanjin; David Paetkau (2010). "Gobi bear abundance and inter-oases movements, Gobi Desert, Mongolia" (PDF). Ursus. 26 (2): 129–142. doi:10.2192/URSUS-D-15-00001.1. S2CID 86305718. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-02-22.
  9. ^ a b Tumendemberel, Odbayar; Zedrosser, Andreas; Proctor, Michael F.; Reynolds, Harry V.; Adams, Jennifer R.; Sullivan, Jack M.; Jacobs, Sarah J.; Khorloojav, Tumennasan; Tserenbataa, Tuya; Batmunkh, Mijiddorj; Swenson, Jon E. (2019-08-13). "Phylogeography, genetic diversity, and connectivity of brown bear populations in Central Asia" (PDF). PLOS ONE. 14 (8): e0220746. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1420746T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0220746. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 6692007. PMID 31408475.
  10. ^ Lan T.; Gill S.; Bellemain E.; Bischof R.; Zawaz M. A.; Lindqvist C. (2017). "Evolutionary history of enigmatic bears in the Tibetan Plateau–Himalaya region and the identity of the yeti". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284 (1868): 20171804. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.1804. PMC 5740279. PMID 29187630.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Thomas M.; Waits, Lisette P.; Mijiddorj, B. (2009-04-01). "Status of the Gobi bear in Mongolia as determined by noninvasive genetic methods". Ursus. 20 (1): 30–38. doi:10.2192/07GR013R.1. ISSN 1537-6176 – via BioOne Digital Library.


Further reading