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Scientists identify a polar bear population uniquely prepared for climate change


A recent study , published in Science, indicates that a population of polar bears could uniquely adapt to survive the decline of Arctic sea ice. For the last 40 years, the region has lost 13 percent of its ice cover each decade. That’s like removing a chunk of ice the size of Ireland every year. This threatens Artic animals like polar bears that rely on sea ice to feed.

The researchers reported a previously unstudied population of polar bears from southern Greenland – a region where sea ice can disappear for eight months of the year. These bears adopted a new feeding strategy to avoid starvation: feeding from freshwater ice coming from Greenland’s glaciers.

“We knew there were some bears in the area from historical records and Indigenous knowledge. We just didn’t know how special they were,” says Kristin Laidre in a press release, a polar scientist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

Polar bears typically ambush seals on floating layers of sea ice to feed. They feed plenty in the spring and early summer when vulnerable baby seals wean from their moms, but once the ice melts, they must fast until it returns. Fasting polar bears can survive for […]

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