Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A Unique Hunting Strategy By A Small Population of Polar Bears

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Nature, Wildlife, Sustainability, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Global Change, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

It was good to find a short report about the finding of an isolated polar bear population which has developed a hunting strategy that allows them to survive in an area free of sea ice for part of the year. I'd heard about it and was interested.

The scientific report is a bit of bitter and sweet. The bitter is a reminder of what we have done to  the earth's atmosphere; the sweet, at least for the time being, is a solution found by these magnificent bears, so appropriately bearing the scientific name of Ursus maritimus. The sea bear.

The original paper is behind a subscription paywall in the journal Science.

The story reported by Bianca Nogrady notes that "researcher identified the genetically distinct sub-population in the fjords of southeast Greenland" where "sea-ice coverage last for only around 100day each year." Polar bears require sea ice to hunt. The population of females is small, "consisting of 27 adult females." They hunt "on the ice that has calved off glaciers--called glacial melange."  The "populations has been isolated from other polar bears populations...for at least 200 years."

Here is a short video (53s) of the physics of a glacial ice melange.

Kristin Laidre at the University of Washington in Seattle led the research. She told Nogrady that sometimes, when "the ice platforms got caught in the rapid current that travels down the east coast of Geenlan...'they would actually jump off', swim ashore and walk back home."

For more details see the Nature report where there is also a magnificent picture of a bear from this population.

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