Image: © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com/
Scientists generally consider two response methods to confront the impacts of global climate change: one is called mitigation, in which we find ways to lessen or offset the blow (think emissions reductions, geo-engineering) and the other is called adaptation, in which we, or other species, find ways to just deal.
So, it’s positive (albeit depressing) to find studies proving that animals, plants, and other organisms are working on the adaptation part, because humans, as a whole, are not yet succeeding with mitigation.
Back to the good news: polar bears are eating dolphins. This morbid discovery certainly tugs at the synapses when attempting to analyze the upshots.
But first, how and why is this happening? Polar bears (who have one of my favorite scientific names: Ursus maritimus) require strong ice platforms, fringing shallow waters, in order to catch their primary sustenance: ringed and bearded seals. Historically, polar bears have spent winters gorging on seals, and during the annual melt, they head onshore and lazily bask in the glories of spring and summer with bellies full.
But, Arctic sea ice is now melting sooner and refreezing later – providing them less time for gorging and requiring them to fast longer than the Buddha Boy. They have taken to scavenging on land and been documented eating snow goose eggs, caribou and even grass.
Now for the white-beaked dolphins – which are actually a species of whale – what the heck are they doing up there in the cold Arctic waters in early spring? According to the report, since 1970, the upper water temperatures in the region have increased substantially and summer sea-ice cover decreased by 14% during the past 10 years.
So, with the waters warming, the dolphins decided to check out this newly accessible area. A storm hit April 17, 2014, and created an ice pack that trapped the dolphins. When polar bears spotted them struggling for air in a small crack in the ice, they struck.
So, is this good news or bad news? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Aars, Jon, Anderson, Magnus, Breniere, Agnes, & Blanc, Samuel 2015.White-beaked dolphins trapped in the ice and eaten by polar bears. Polar Research. Publisher Full Text.