What is the first marine mammal added to the endangered species list attributed primarily to climate change? As climate change melts the ice, it is projected that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050. This drastic decline in the polar bear is occurring in our lifetime, which is but a miniscule fraction of the time polar bears have explored the vast Arctic seas (National Wildlife Federation, 2014).
Unfortunately, that is the polar bear (Defenders of Wildlife, 2013). The climate change endangers the species, so much so that the animals have become one of the icons that conservationists use to illustrate the threat posed by climate change (The Huffington Post, 2014). You cannot protect a species from the impacts of climate change without addressing the issue of climate change, itself (Defenders of Wildlife, 2013). Large carnivores are extreme indicators of ecosystem health (WWF, n.d.). “As the Arctic sea ice melts, the polar bears lose their primary hunting ground — not to mention their most plentiful and nutritious prey. It remains a question whether they will be able to adapt to changing conditions and survive” (The Huffington Post, 2014). A polar bear at risk is frequently a sign of something wrong somewhere in the arctic marine ecosystem! A polar bear at risk is frequently a sign of something wrong somewhere in the arctic marine ecosystem (WWF, n.d.)!
The Arctic Ocean and the connected frozen seas are home to the largest and most predatory of the bear family. Every bear alive today evolved 22 million years ago from a common ancestor known as the Ursavus of Asia. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) came from a group of brown bears (Ursus arctos) over 200,000 years ago, which became isolated from the other brown bear populations, by glaciers. Of course, adaptations then took place. “In a case of quantum evolution, polar bears evolved rapidly to exploit a vacant ecological niche as a specialized predator of seals”. No subspecies of polar bears have ever been recognized. Rapid changes occurred to evolve the polar bear (Derocher, 2014).
• white-yellow fur that helps them meld into their background as they sneak up on their prey
• claws that are catlike, an adaptation to grasp fleeing prey
• feet that are heavily furred to provide warmth
• smaller ears to avoid freezing in the frigid winters
• • a narrower and more elongated skull, an adaptation perhaps to warm cold inhaled air, to aid the sense of smell, or to assist with the capture of prey trying to slip through a narrow opening to the safety of the sea below
• the ability to enter a fasting physiological state at any time of the year, unlike other bears, which enter this state only during winter torpor
• Only four mammae (unlike brown bears with six) and a smaller litter size, an adaptation to the harsh environment for raising young (Derocher, 2014).
These bears are carnivorous and prey mostly on seals but polar bears are opportunistic and will exploit food...