01 May '12, 4pm

Polar Bears' Long-Distance Swimming Skills on Display

Polar Bears' Long-Distance Swimming Skills on Display

Scientists have no way of knowing if long-distance swims are a new feature of polar bear life. “We did not have the GPS technology on collars to document this type of swimming behavior in polar bears in prior decades,” explains Karen Oakley, of the USGS Alaska Science Center . “However, summer sea ice conditions in the southern Beaufort Sea have changed considerably over the last 20 to 30 years, such that there is much more open water during summer and fall. Historically, there had not been enough open water for polar bears in this region to swim the long distances we observed in these recent summers of extreme sea ice retreat.” While it is encouraging that polar bears can swim so far, it is also a potential risk for the bears, the researchers noted. The energy and physical costs of such long-distance swimming are unknown, but scientists did note polar bears moved, on aver...

Full article: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/polar-bears-...

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