A group of polar bears find ice to cling to

A group of polar bears find ice to cling to

(journalist)
– As polar bear species fight for survival from disappearing Arctic sea ice, a distinct new group of Greenland bears appear to have stumbled upon an oasis of ice that could allow a small, remote population to “hang on”. But it’s far from the “life raft” for endangered species that has long been a symbol of climate change, scientists have said. A team of scientists has tracked a group of a few hundred polar bears in southeast Greenland that they believe are genetically distinct and geographically separated from others in a way that had not previously been considered, reports the AP . What is really distinct is that these bears survive despite only having 100 days a year when there is sea ice to hunt seals. Elsewhere in the world, polar bears need at least 180 days of sea ice. When there is no sea ice, bears often go without food for months.

With limited sea ice, which is frozen sea water, these southeastern Greenland polar bears use freshwater icebergs from the shrinking Greenland ice sheet as makeshift hunting grounds, according to a study published in the Thursday newspaper. Science. However, scientists don’t know if they are thriving because they are smaller and have fewer cubs than other polar bear populations. “These polar bears are adapted to live in an environment that looks like the future,” said study lead author Kristin Laidre, a polar bear biologist at the University of Washington. Laidre tracked, bonded and tested the all-white bears for nine years, usually from a helicopter hovering over the white snow and ice backdrop. “But most Arctic bears don’t have ice,” adding that it cannot be inferred that there is now a life raft for them in the entire Arctic. “Greenland is unique.”

This population of polar bears is found at the southeastern tip of the giant island, where there are no towns. While most bears travel 25 miles in four days, bears in southeast Greenland travel about 6 miles at the same time, according to the study. “They stay in one place for years and years,” Laidre said. In general, these bears are thinner than other arctic bears and have fewer cubs, which could be because they are so isolated and don’t have as many mating opportunities, a- she declared. Because this group hadn’t been studied before, Laidre said it’s impossible to say whether the polar bear population in southeast Greenland just adapted to be smaller and have fewer cubs. or if these are indicators of a stressed population and not a good sign of survival. . “They’re not as healthy as other individuals who live in better habitat,” said study co-author Beth Shapiro. “So maybe it’s kind of an oasis, but it’s not a happy oasis. It’s kind of an oasis where I’m struggling to get out of it but getting there.”

(Read more polar bear stories.)

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