Meals without seals: How polar bears will have to adapt to life on land

As polar bears spend more time on land as a result of melting ice, they will have to shift their diets in order to survive

  • Mar 09, 2021
  • 234 words
  • 1 minutes
Expand Image

As the changing climate melts the Arctic ice, the animals that are part of these ecosystems will have to shift their lifestyles to survive in the terrestrial habitats they find themselves in. 

A recent review article published in a climate change special issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology discussed how Arctic animals would be impacted, especially as they are forced onto land. 

For the iconic polar bear, which relies on sea ice to provide access to high calorie seals, they will have to change their diets in order to provide them with the energy they need to hunt, reproduce and survive in a challenging thermal environment. Polar bears,the most recently evolved marine mammals, have specialised — both behaviourally and physiologically — to hunt seals, which are rich in blubber.

Already, polar bears have already been observed to spend more time on land — and to consume more terrestrial food resources. But the food they are able to eat on land is less rich in digestible energy than the seals they are able to hunt on the ice. This infographic illustrates the alternative terrestrial food sources that would approximately make up for the energy from one ringed seal.

Infographic shows that polar bears would have to eat One and a half caribou  37 Arctic char  74 snow geese  216 snow goose eggs (that?s 54 nests with 4 eggs per clutch!) OR 3 million crowberries to replace one calorie-rich ringed seal Expand Image
Infographic: Kat Barquiero / Can Geo. Data source: “Physiological consequences of Arctic sea ice loss on large marine carnivores: unique responses by polar bears and narwhals,” Journal of Experimental Biology

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