According to scientists, a group of polar bears has had a distinctive appearance in southeast Greenland. It has been historically isolated and is genetically different from other species of bears. Polar bears in the Arctic region depend on sea ice that they use as a platform to hunt seals. However, this ice is melting away, reducing the hunting ground for the bears.
Unlike sea ice, researchers have found a distinct group of polar bears that do not depend on sea ice. Instead, this sub-population of polar bears appears to have adapted to climate change, such as hunting for seals in fjords and relying on ice melanges.
The researchers at the University of Washington, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and others have tracked polar bears in the southeast region for seven years. These findings combined with genetic analysis and also included decades of historical data from the entire east coast of Greenland. Through the MoDIS, the scientists also tracked the fjords and offshore sea ice environment through the NASA''s Terra and Aqua satellites and the NSIDC data.
polar bears in Southeast Greenland have no access to sea ice for two-thirds of the year, according to the study. These bears, however, continue to hunt and survive by making use of freshwater ice slabs that keep breaking off from the coastal glaciers and ice sheets in the area.
These polar bears travel across the border with fjords in search of food by trekking over the mountains and crossing inland ice.
According to Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist at the University of Washington, and co-author of the study, this group of polar bears have been separated from their arctic counterparts for hundreds of years. As temperatures rose and ice melted away, the species adopted strategies and has managed to survive.