Researchers have discovered a previously unknown group of polar bears. It is estimated that there are several hundred of them – about 20 known subgroups of polar bears.
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown population of polar bears in southeastern Greenland that does not depend on sea ice.
Instead, these isolated inhabitants are catching freshwater ice near glaciers that flow into the sea, researchers led by Christine Laider of the University of Washington write in the journal Science. The population is also genetically different from the others.
Researchers estimate that there are a few hundred of them, making them the 20th known subgroup of polar bears. Scientists have used a great deal of data, including polar bear movements and genetics, from the past 36 years to research populations and observe animals in their environment.
“We learned from historical records and Aboriginal knowledge that there are some bears in this area, but we didn’t realize how unusual they were,” Ledri said. The area is not explored much due to the unpredictable weather patterns, rugged mountains and heavy snowfall.
Previously known populations of polar bears depended largely on sea ice to hunt seals. However, the amount of Arctic sea ice has continued to decline in recent decades due to climate change. The researchers wrote that the discovery of the new population could offer hope. Freshwater ice at glaciers flowing into the sea can serve as a “previously unknown climate refuge.”
However, they warn of a lot of hope. Leader said the study shows how some polar bears may survive climate change. “But I don’t think the glacier habitat will support large numbers of polar bears. There are not enough of them. We still expect polar bear numbers in the Arctic to decline sharply with climate change.”
The researchers write that the now-discovered populations also use the sea ice that is frozen right on the coast for fishing. However, this is only available in the region four months a year, until the end of May.
It is the most genetically isolated population of polar bears on Earth, said co-author Beth Shapiro of the University of California. “We know that this group has been separate from other polar bear groups for at least several hundred years.” (dpa)
“Alcohol buff. Troublemaker. Introvert. Student. Social media lover. Web ninja. Bacon fan. Reader.”