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Polar bears are forced to change their diet

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The effects of the Arctic meltdown due to climate change go beyond sea level rise. Polar bears, which have become an icon of this problem, are being forced to change their diet: they went from hunting seals to feeding on goose eggs.

According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology and led by the Polar Institute of Norway, the change in the Arctic coastlines is making it difficult for polar bears to catch seals, so they are forced to conform with abandoned geese eggs.

Researchers arrived to this conclusion after the monitoring of 60 seals and 67 polar bears through tracking devices, which allowed them to compare how their movements were before and after 2006, which was when a sudden melting occurred in the Svalbard archipelago that resulted in the altering of several coastal areas. Before this melting, when polar bears could hunt on stable ice, they had an advantage over the seals. However, after the mentioned melting, when the coast line was altered, the odds began to run in favor of the seals.

As a result, the polar bears now swim stealthily to the seals before launching the attack and there have even been reports of bears standing on floating ice to approach them. The problem? Not all polar bears have developed mastery of these techniques, so they have a very high failure rate.

"Although it seems that there are already several males who use this method to hunt, they are likely to be more energy-demanding than they were before," said Chairmain Hamilton, lead researcher of New Scientist.

In fact, as tracking devices have reported, much of the polar bear population in the Arctic is beginning to retreat from the shores to search for inland food alternatives. "Bears are also spending much more time near bird nests, suggesting that eggs have become an important source of food," the study adds.

The problem, again, is that the intake of small bird eggs cannot be equated to eating a seal, so they would need a giant omelet to compensate for this loss.

But Hamilton's observations are not the only ones that support the new diet of polar bears. Ecologist Jouke Prop of the University of Groningen (Netherlands) has noticed the same behavior. After devoting himself to studying the geese for several years, he managed to film some images where the polar bears appear to be devouring goose eggs.

"It takes them an average of 30 seconds to locate the nest and just a minute to eat the eggs," he told New Scientist. This fact is not far from the results of previous studies, which concluded that bird populations in the area were declining by as much as 90%.

Therefore, experts are not only concerned about what this new diet can cause in polar bears, but throughout the ecosystem. The truth is that the melting in the Arctic is already starting a chain of changes.

Source: El Espectador

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