Polar bears finding it harder to catch enough seals to meet energy demands

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Gawdzilla Sama
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Polar bears finding it harder to catch enough seals to meet energy demands

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:57 am

Polar bears finding it harder to catch enough seals to meet energy demands
Study reveals high metabolic rates, meaning polar bears need a lot of fat-rich prey, but more than half of those studied were running an energy deficit

Date: February 1, 2018

Source: University of California - Santa Cruz

Summary: A new study finds polar bears in the wild have higher metabolic rates than previously thought, and as climate change alters their environment a growing number of bears are unable to catch enough prey to meet their energy needs.

A new study finds polar bears in the wild have higher metabolic rates than previously thought, and as climate change alters their environment a growing number of bears are unable to catch enough prey to meet their energy needs.

The study, published February 2 in Science, reveals the physiological mechanisms behind observed declines in polar bear populations, said first author Anthony Pagano, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Santa Cruz.

"We've been documenting declines in polar bear survival rates, body condition, and population numbers over the past decade," he said. "This study identifies the mechanisms that are driving those declines by looking at the actual energy needs of polar bears and how often they're able to catch seals."

Pagano, who is also a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), conducted the study as part of his Ph.D. thesis research at UC Santa Cruz, where he has been working with coauthors Terrie Williams and Daniel Costa, both professors of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The researchers monitored the behavior, hunting success, and metabolic rates of adult female polar bears without cubs as they hunted for prey on the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea in the spring. High-tech collars on the bears recorded video, locations, and activity levels over a period of eight to 11 days, while metabolic tracers enabled the team to determine how much energy the bears expended.

The field metabolic rates they measured averaged more than 50 percent higher than previous studies had predicted. Five of the nine bears in the study lost body mass, meaning they weren't catching enough fat-rich marine mammal prey to meet their energy demands.


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