Researchers working in Greenland have discovered a bear population that lives in inappropriate places – at least at first sight. For a long time, scientists considered these animals to represent a different close population.
This remarkable observation is particularly optimistic in the context of a changing climate. It is suggested that bears are able to adapt to an unstable environment. The samples observed in Greenland occur in an area completely free of ice. This seemed crucial to the survival of these animals.
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So far, scientists have classified 19 polar bear subpopulations that live in the Arctic Circle. One of them covers 3,200 km of the east coast of Greenland. However, when researchers looked at this group in detail to get a better understanding of its numbers, they realized that the bears actually formed two completely separate populations.
Therefore, they decided to analyze 36 years of data collected while observing GPS-tagged bears. Thanks to them, they found that the bears from the southeast of Greenland did not pass above 64N latitude, while the bears from the northeast did not cross the same line in the opposite direction. Genetic testing of representatives of each of the potential populations confirmed assumptions regarding their distinctive characteristics.
Polar bears are among the animals most vulnerable to climate change
According to the publication available at SciencesIn this way it was possible to identify the twenty sub-populations of polar bears in the Arctic Circle. It includes about 300 animals and is the most diverse. Genetic comparisons indicate that it was isolated from the Northeast population for about 200 years. As the Arctic ice cover continues to decline, polar bears have to contend with an increasingly challenging environment to survive. They can usually survive from 100 to 180 days without food, but the changes cause the sea ice to melt faster and freeze later, significantly prolonging this period.
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On the other hand, the new observations are like a glimmer of hope, because they show that polar bears can survive even in an ice-free environment for more than 250 days a year. Such conditions will cover almost the entire Arctic by the end of the twenty-first century. But will all combinations do as newly defined?
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