Polar Bear

Polar Bears’ Unwelcome New Diet

Climate change is pushing polar bears to the starvation brink, leading some to search for sustenance in unfamiliar places.


A solitary polar bear adrift on a melting piece of ice has long been the iconic symbol of climate change. But a shrinking habitat is not the only effect global warming is having on this species – it is also changing the polar bears’ diet.

Polar Bear

With a dwindling seal population, polar bears have had to look for alternate sources of food and researchers in Norway have observed them preying on white-beaked dolphins. This is not a complete surprise as polar bears are known scavengers and have been observed eating whales in the past. What is surprising is that one polar bear was observed burying a dolphin carcass under the snow, presumably to be eaten later. Hiding a fresh kill would decrease the likelihood of other animals scavenging the remains, but this behaviour is rare in polar bears found in this region.

A lack of sea ice in the Norwegian Arctic over the winter is thought to be the reason that the pod of dolphins was seen so far north; typically dolphins do not start frequenting the area until the summer months.  As the temperature of the Arctic rises, it is likely that many species will be found further north than usual leading to dramatic changes in the Arctic ecosystem.

All images by fruchtzwerg’s world; available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License

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Allison Guy is a freelance science writer who is passionate about increasing scientific literacy and enhancing scientific discourse among the public. She holds a MSc in neuroscience from the University of Toronto and has been working as a drug development consultant for the pharmaceutical industry both domestically and abroad for the last 5 years. She is also a lecturer at Ryerson University in the Department of Chemistry and Biology and at the G. Raymond Chang School where she teaches pharmaceutical development and regulation.