‘Secret’ inhabitants of polar bears dwelling in seemingly inconceivable habitat

A beforehand unknown inhabitants of polar bears that adapt to restricted sea ice entry attributable to international warming by looking from freshwater ice pouring into the ocean from glaciers have been found by scientists.

Whereas most polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt seals, scientists discovered this distinct, remoted inhabitants makes use of freshwater ice on the marine terminal glacial fronts as a platform to hunt seals year-round.

The examine was published in the journal Science on Thursday by scientists, together with these from the College of Washington within the US.

It sheds gentle on this remoted inhabitants of some hundred polar bears which might be genetically distinct and uniquely tailored to this surroundings.

Researchers stated finding out this inhabitants may make clear the way forward for the species within the warming Arctic.

“We wished to survey this area as a result of we didn’t know a lot concerning the polar bears in southeast Greenland, however we by no means anticipated to discover a new subpopulation dwelling there,” Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist and lead creator of the examine, stated in an announcement.

“We knew there have been some bears within the space from historic information and indigenous data. We simply didn’t know the way particular they have been,” Dr Laidre stated.

Within the examine, scientists mixed seven years of latest information collected from the southeastern coast of Greenland – a area poorly studied attributable to unpredictable climate, jagged mountains and heavy snowfall – together with 30 years of historic information from the island’s complete east coast.

The findings revealed that this distinctive subpopulation of polar bears, with restricted entry to sea ice, used glacier ice to outlive.

“Southeast Greenland bears survive in fjords which might be sea-ice free greater than eight months of the 12 months as a result of they’ve entry to glacier (freshwater) ice on which they will hunt seals. They’re probably the most genetically remoted polar bears on the earth,” Dr Laidre tweeted.

“Polar bears are threatened by sea ice loss attributable to local weather change. This new inhabitants provides us some perception into how the species would possibly persist into the long run,” she stated.

Researchers stated the genetic distinction between these polar bears and their nearest genetic neighbours was higher than that noticed for any of the 19 beforehand identified populations.

“However we should be cautious about extrapolating our findings as a result of the glacier ice that makes it doable for Southeast Greenland bears to outlive isn’t out there in a lot of the Arctic,” she added.

“They’re probably the most genetically remoted inhabitants of polar bears anyplace on the planet,” Beth Shapiro, one other co-author of the examine, stated.

“We all know that this inhabitants has been dwelling individually from different polar bear populations for at the very least a number of hundred years, and that their inhabitants measurement all through this time has remained small,” Dr Shapiro added.

These bears are seemingly remoted as they’re hemmed in on all sides by sharp mountain peaks and the large Greenland Ice Sheet to the west, open water of the Denmark Strait to the east and a fast-flowing east Greenland coastal present posing a hazard offshore.

Whereas different polar bear populations transfer on land or migrate with receding sea ice into much less productive areas in the course of the ice-free season, the variation seen on this new group permits the bears to achieve an in any other case inhospitable place, researchers stated.

The findings, in accordance with the scientists, have implications for polar bear conservation.

They counsel that these marine-terminating glaciers, though of restricted availability, could present beforehand unrecognised local weather refugia to the bears.

Whereas these habitats are unusual within the Arctic, researchers stated they’re out there in locations like Greenland or Svalbard.

Nonetheless, scientists cautioned that longer-term monitoring is required to know the long run viability of those distinctive bears and to grasp what occurs to polar bear subpopulations as they’re more and more lower off from the remainder of the Arctic.

“Preserving the genetic variety of polar bears is essential going ahead underneath local weather change. Formally recognising these bears as a separate inhabitants shall be necessary for conservation and administration,” Dr Laidre stated.

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