Researchers find unknown polar bear population

Researchers find unknown polar bear population

Updated on 06/17/2022 at 5:46 pm

  • In Greenland, researchers have discovered a previously unknown polar bear population.
  • It is estimated that there are several hundred animals here.
  • Unlike other populations, these prey not on sea ice but on freshwater ice near glaciers.

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Scientists in the southeast have Greenland Discovered a previously unknown polar bear population that does not depend on sea ice. Instead, this isolated population preys on freshwater ice near ocean-flowing glaciers, researchers led by Kristin Ladrey of the University of Washington write in the journal Science. Populations also differ genetically from others.

Researchers estimate there are a few hundred of them, making them the 20th known subgroup of polar bears. Scientists used a vast amount of data, including the activities and genetics of polar bears, from the past 36 years to research populations and observe animals in their environments.

New population discovery may give hope

“We knew from historical records and tribal knowledge that there were some bears in the area, but we didn’t know how extraordinary they were,” Ladre said. Due to unpredictable weather conditions, rugged mountains and heavy snowfall, little has been explored in the region.

Read also: Five, then four, then three: How polar bears help save energy while bathing

The previously known populations of polar bears depend largely on sea ice to hunt seals. However, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has increased over the past few decades. decreasing due to climate change, The discovery of new populations may offer hope, the researchers write. Freshwater ice on ocean-flowing glaciers could potentially serve as a “previously unknown climate refuge.”

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However, they caution against hoping too much. The study shows how some polar bears may survive climate change, Ladre said. “But I don’t think glacier habitat will support large numbers of polar bears. There aren’t enough of them. We continue to expect polar bear numbers in the Arctic to decline rapidly with climate change.”

Largest genetically isolated polar bear population on Earth

The researchers wrote that the population now discovered also uses sea ice that freezes directly off the coast for hunting. However, it is only available in the region four months a year, until the end of May.

This is the most genetically isolated polar bear population on Earth, said co-author Beth Shapiro from the University of California. “We know this population has been isolated from other polar bear populations for at least several hundred years.” (FF/DPA)

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