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polar bears and narwhals run out faster due to melting ice

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Polar bears are in great difficulty in the Arctic. A recent study, however, looked at the physiology of these animals in the context of melting ice. Polar bears today use up to four times as much energy to survive, researchers say. Other animals such as narwhals are also in an unenviable position.

Polar bears burn out faster

The melting Arctic ice is a concern at various levels. In 2019, researchers wondered whether or not this phenomenon could be responsible for the spread of viruses. However, one of the most common concerns is survival of local wildlife, whose symbol is embodied by the famous polar bear. There is a lot of evidence circulating on the web concerning his daily difficulties.

Anthony Pagano works for the San Diego Zoological Society (USA). His study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology reminds us that polar bears are physiologically conditioned to use as little energy as possible. Usually, they sit near breathing holes in the ice in order to catch seals, their main food source. Unfortunately, seals are now becoming rarer and the surface of the ice decreases by 13% per decade since 1979.

According to Anthony Pagano, polar bears in the Arctic today have to swim an average of three days to find seals. Their only other choice is to travel long distances on dry land in search of food. In order to match the energy available in an adult ringed seal, the bear must find the equivalent of 1.5 caribou, 216 snow goose eggs, or three meters of crowberry, a fruiting plant growing in the area.

Credit: Alan D. Wilson / Wikipedia

Same fight for narwhals

The results of the study in question are in the same direction as previous work suggesting a possible almost total disappearance of the polar bear by 2100. However, other animals are obviously concerned. These include, for example, narwhals, which also have to expend more energy to feed. Today narwhals are forced to descend to about 1,500 meters deep to hunt turbot, their favorite prey. However, they must absolutely come to the surface to breathe. You should also know that due to global warming, ice moves quickly, just like air holes. However, the researchers noted that narwhals adapt the speed, depth and duration of their dives according to the limited amount of oxygen in their muscles and blood. In other words, any adaptation error could fatally lead to drowning.

Polar bears and narwhals are therefore a tightrope in the Arctic and other wildlife could follow the same path. According to the study’s researchers, this is the case with belugas, arctic foxes and other muskoxen. Today the arctic world is more unpredictable than ever for these animals.


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