In Greenland, with climate change forcing them to drastically adapt their diet and habitat, polar bears are showing significant flexibility, according to a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen.
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A study of the genomes of specimens of these Arctic predators showed that since the end of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago, “as temperatures increased, the sea ice decreased, which reduced the habitat of the polar bears and forced them to move further north,” Michael Westbury, co-author of a study on the subject published in the journal “Science Advances,” told AFP on Wednesday.
At the start of the interglacial period, rising temperatures also led to a decline in the bear population, he noted.
However, despite concerns for the survival of these carnivores – this species has been classified among the populations vulnerable to climate change since 1982 – “polar bears are doing relatively well”, estimated the lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.
“They might be more adaptable than previously thought… it’s more of a surprise,” he added.
Recently scientists identified a new population of polar bears in southeast Greenland, which uses chunks of ice breaking off from the region’s freshwater glaciers while predators usually use the sea ice, which melts as it melts. skin of sorrow, to hunt seals, their favorite prey.
These mammals, whose morphology is different from those of west Greenland, do not live in ideal conditions, Mr. Westbury stressed, but “they can adapt their food and that leads to other changes”.
The current acceleration of global warming, however, places animals in an unprecedented situation.
“According to projections, they should be forced to go further and further north, but at a time when there will be nowhere to go, this could be very harmful,” insisted the researcher.
A situation that is all the more complicated for polar bears as warming linked to human action is much faster than before and leaves them less time to adapt and modify their behavior.