In Greenland, polar bears have learned to survive on a glacier

(ORDO NEWS) — Due to the reduction of the area of ​​polar ice in the Arctic, polar bears are especially hard hit: deprived of the opportunity to hunt on sea ice, these huge predators are literally dying of hunger.

Previously, it was believed that these animals could not get their livelihood on land, but in the southeast of Greenland, scientists have discovered a whole population of polar bears that have adapted to survive on the glacier.

The southeast coast of Greenland has not been explored for a long time: unpredictable weather, steep mountain slopes and heavy snowfalls have prevented scientists from properly studying the polar bears that lived here.

They knew about their existence thanks to historical records and stories of local residents, but they did not even imagine how special these animals were.

It turned out that for at least several hundred years, a small population of polar bears survived in complete isolation, not mixing with their neighbors: surrounded on all sides by sharp mountain peaks, the creeping Greenland ice sheet and the waters of the Denmark Strait , the animals were locked up on the island.

Tracking the movement of Greenland bears, scientists have found that these animals are not especially trying to leave their “natural reserve”: even if they are carried away to the open sea on a breakaway ice floe, they leave the “raft” and return to land to climb the slopes of narrow fjords again and move to neighboring bays along the ice sheet.

These animals have access to sea ice for only four months of the year, from February to the end of May, but this does not prevent them from using freshwater ice to hunt seals.

These polar bears feed on the very edge of the Greenland glacier, which ends in the sea. Predators prey on resting seals on ice floes that regularly break away from it, and since the glacier continues to constantly “produce” new ice floes, polar bears may not be afraid of shrinking sea ice, which makes them less vulnerable to climate change.

In Greenland polar bears have learned to survive on a glacier 2
A female with calves crosses a glacier in southeast Greenland in September 2016

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that a new way of surviving on glaciers can be saving for the species as a whole: firstly, such glaciers exist only in Greenland and on the island of Svalbard , so they are inaccessible to most polar bears.

Secondly, such an ecosystem is able to support only a small number of individuals, therefore, in the event of the extinction of the “marine” part of the population of polar bears, “glacial” ones may turn out to be too small to restore the abundance of the species.

In any case, Greenlandic polar bears are a separate population with a unique way of life, and therefore, without a doubt, it needs to be observed and preserved.


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