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Why polar bears are starving?

04 February 2018

LONDON-High-tech tracking collars on nine female polar bears have measured the animals' efforts to find food on the diminishing Arctic ice. They attached Global Positioning System collars equipped with video cameras and released them back to the wild for 11 days to study how they forage.

"This was at the start of the period from April through July when polar bears catch most of their prey and put on most of the body fat they need to sustain them throughout the year", Pagano said in the statement.

In this April 15, 2015 photo provided by the United States Geological Survey, a polar bear wearing a Global Positioning System video-camera collar lies on a chunk of sea ice in the Beaufort Sea.

Pinning down that figure is an important step in understanding what is happening to polar bears now and in the future with climate change, said polar ecologist John P Whiteman of the University of New Mexico. These trackers included accelerometers and GPS-equipped video cameras to document the bears' activities.

Derocher said since the study used a small sample size over a short period, follow-up research should follow more animals over a longer stretch. "Unfortunately, with the rapid environmental changes occurring in Arctic sea ice, the specialisation that once allowed polar bears to live in this challenging habitat has painted the animals into a physiological corner and led to devastating consequences", said wildlife eco-physiologist Terrie Williams, a study co-author who heads the university's Center for Marine Mammal Research and Conservation.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears spend more than 50% of their time hunting and are successful less than 2% of that time.

Polar bears are starving and scientists believe that shrinking sea ice caused by climate change is to blame. They also injected the bears with water labelled with stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen.

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Research suggests that bears are and than they did historically, resulting in an energy imbalance that negatively affects their condition and reproductive success. One female bear Griffen studied swam 426 miles over nine days.

"This is an excellent paper that fills in a lot of missing information about polar bears", said Amstrup, who was not involved in the USGS research.

While scientists were quick to caution that the causes of the animal's condition remain unknown-disease, injury or any number of other factors could potentially have spelled its demise-experts are anxious that starving polar bears may soon become a more common sight as the sea ice they rely on for hunting grounds continues to melt away. It has been hard, however, for researchers to study the fundamental biology and behavior of polar bears in this very remote and harsh environment, Pagano said.

But still, "when I see pictures of big glacial blocks breaking away and the sea ice is retreating, I get anxious", Fickel admits.

Lead scientist, Anthony Pagano, does note that the findings of the Beaufort Sea shouldn't necessarily be expanded to the other 18 circumpolar populations of bears where he says, conditions can differ for each group.

The huge glacial ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are reacting more slowly to the warming atmosphere and oceans but scientists are watching them closely as they will heavily influence sea level rise if there's significant melting. This is the time when bears give birth pups.

They found the bears' metabolic rates were about 60% higher than scientists had previously assumed. Our measures of metabolism were considerably higher than previous estimates of polar bear metabolic rates. Measurements showed those animals lost 10 percent or more of their body mass.

Why polar bears are starving?