Polar bears adapt diet to global warming

27 January 2014

Polar bears have shown adaptability to ride out the melting ice by changing their diet and adapting to the new climate.

Polar bears are often thought as animals that would be affected by global warming, but new research had shown that when food of their choice was not available, the bears were willing to change their diet, International Business Times reported. Though they preferred seal, at times, when they were not available researchers found they would eat caribou, snow geese, grass seed and berries.

According to Linda Gormezano, a co-author of the study, what the results suggested was that polar bears had flexible foraging strategies. This did not change the fact that polar bears were obviously affected by the climate, but it did show that polar bears were much more flexible in their diet than previously thought.

Though this flexibility was certainly surprising and would have advantages for the bears, it was unlikely that this diet change would completely save the polar bears from the impact of climate change, say scientists.

Global warming was still causing population decrease as also a scarcity of food for polar bears.

For an animal the size of a 1,500-pound polar bear, berries and grass would probably not be able to sustain them and the bears would have to find some other source of food.

According to Polar Bears International, polar bears relied on seals and other marine mammals for food, but with the melting of the ice, they hunted for different foods like snow geese (and other animals), mushrooms and berries.

However, with the Arctic sea ice melting due to global warming, the polar bears were unable to feast on their regular diet like seal pups before they moved up to land.

The researchers took a video of polar bears in western Hudson Bay chasing, killing and eating snow geese, while another study in the journal Ecology and Evolution compared polar bear scat from modern times with an analysis from 1968 to 1969, which revealed that modern scat contained caribou and goose eggs while previously it contained very few remnants of snow geese. The study suggested that changes had occurred in the diet of polar bears.

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