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The Quest for Sea Ice: Swimming with polar bears and a camera

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Follow a group of four polar bears as they swim in search of ice. Arctic Bear Productions filmmaker Adam Ravetch captured this footage by attaching a camera to one of the four animals. The big paws, the sun on the horizon, and seeing them swim from under the water are all rare to witness, but the video was also a conversation-starter for us about how the bears eat by hunting seals from platforms of sea ice, and why it’s challenging for them to find ice.

In the summer of 2011, Ravetch and biologist Anthony Pagano first teamed up to attach a wildlife camera to the collar of a polar bear. Ravetch writes:

At the time scientists thought bears didn’t eat very much in the summer and that they were fasting. The concern of course is how do they make it through these ice-free summers that are now longer then ever before, without the access to seals that ice provides.

It was long thought that berries or vegetation had no nutritional benefit to an animal that has evolved over 100,000 years to eat nothing but marine mammals. However, my footage showed the bear, almost nonstop, gorging on berries. This raises all kinds of research questions, including whether polar bears are changing diets to cope with the warming seasons?

As ice regions have longer melt seasons, some polar bear populations may try to adapt by swimming longer distances, hunting alternate animals, or foraging for other foods like berries and bird eggs.

File under: climate change and adaptation.

via Dot Earth.

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