August 17, 2022

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Discovered shaky oasis for some polar bears however not species

With the polar bear species within the struggle for survival due to the disappearing Arctic sea iceA new group of Greenland bears seems to have stumbled upon an icy oasis that would enable a small, distant inhabitants to ‘keep’.

However it’s removed from a “security raft” for the endangered species that has lengthy been an emblem of local weather changesaid scientists.

A staff of scientists tracked a bunch of some hundred polar bears in south-east Greenland they present are genetically distinct and geographically separated from others, one thing not beforehand thought of. However what’s actually distinctive is that these bears survive regardless of having solely 100 days a yr of sea ice to hunt seals from. Elsewhere on the planet, polar bears want no less than 180 days, often extra, of sea ice to make use of as a looking base. When there isn’t a sea ice, polar bears typically go months with out consuming.


With restricted sea ice, which is frozen seawater, these southeast Greenland polar bears are utilizing freshwater icebergs which have emerged from the shrinking Greenland ice sheet as makeshift looking grounds, in keeping with a research within the Journal Thursday Science. Nonetheless, scientists aren’t certain in the event that they’ll thrive as a result of they’re smaller and have fewer cubs than different polar bear populations.

“These polar bears are tailored to dwelling in an setting that appears like the longer term,” mentioned the research’s lead writer, Kristin Laidre, a polar bear biologist on the College of Washington who has been monitoring the all-white, collared bears for over 9 years and examined from a helicopter hovering over the white snow and ice backdrop. “However most bears within the Arctic don’t have glacial ice. They don’t have entry to that. So it could’t be taken out of context as if this had been by some means like a life raft for polar bears within the arctic. It’s not. Greenland is exclusive.”

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“We’re predicting a big decline in polar bears throughout the Arctic, and this research doesn’t change that crucial message,” Laidre mentioned. “What this research exhibits is that we’re discovering this remoted group dwelling on this distinctive place… We’re taking a look at the place within the Arctic polar bears can thrive as a species the place they may survive.”

The freshwater ice will proceed to fall away from the ice sheet for hundreds of years, giving restricted hope that that is “a spot the place polar bears might proceed to outlive,” however it’s separate from one Total pattern of sea ice loss in the summertime due to emissions of heat-trapping gases from burning coal, oil and pure gasoline, mentioned Nationwide Snow and Ice Knowledge Heart affiliate senior scientist Twila Moon, a co-author of the research.

These bears hunt on the contemporary glacial ice, which has extra peaks and valleys than the flatter sea ice, typically in house- or car-sized icebergs known as bergy bits, Moon mentioned.


This inhabitants of polar bears is discovered on the southeast tip of the large island the place there aren’t any cities. For years, scientists assumed these bears had been a part of the identical inhabitants in northeast Greenland, simply roaming up and down the huge shoreline. However they don’t, Laidre mentioned. An uncommon array of winds, currents and geographic options round 64 levels north makes it practically unattainable for the bears to maneuver north of that time, with the present sending them south rapidly, she mentioned.

Whereas most bears cowl 40 kilometers in 4 days, the southeast Greenland bears cowl about 10 kilometers in the identical time, the research mentioned.

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“They keep in the identical place for years,” Laidre mentioned.

Genetic checks carried out by Laidre and his colleagues confirmed that they differ extra from neighboring populations than every other pair of polar bears on Earth, mentioned research co-author Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary geneticist on the College of California at Santa Cruz .


Sometimes a bear from elsewhere will breed with the southeastern bear, however Shapiro mentioned it hardly ever and solely goes a method and not using a bear going north and breeding with that inhabitants.

Generally, these bears are thinner than different Arctic bears, with females weighing about 400 kilos (185 kilograms), in comparison with 440 to 560 kilos (199 to 255 kilograms) elsewhere within the North American Arctic, Laidre mentioned. They usually additionally are inclined to have fewer younger, which may very well be as a result of they’re so remoted and don’t get as many mating alternatives, she mentioned.

As a result of this group hasn’t been studied earlier than, it’s unattainable to say whether or not the polar bear inhabitants in south-east Greenland merely tailored to a smaller inhabitants with fewer cubs, or whether or not these are indicators of a burdened inhabitants and never a great signal for survival, he mentioned laidre . Shapiro and others don’t imagine it seems to be good.


“They don’t reproduce as profusely as different people,” Shapiro mentioned. “They don’t seem to be as wholesome as different people dwelling in higher habitat. It could be some type of oasis, however not a cheerful oasis. It’s type of an oasis the place I battle to make ends meet, however I simply handle.”

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Longtime polar bear researcher Steve Amstrup of Polar Bear Worldwide, who was not concerned within the research, mentioned he worries folks might misread this analysis to imply that polar bears can adapt to local weather change if it’s a small group of them prolonged their capacity to persevere, including that it “affords no redemption.” Whereas this group is various, he worries that listening to it “would possibly truly scale back the pure isolation they at present get pleasure from.”

That exhibits “that we are able to nonetheless actually shock,” mentioned Moon. “And I’m continuously reminded that there’s by no means some extent at which we throw within the towel.”



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Comply with Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears


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