Today I read an interesting tidbit: Polar bears diverged from brown bears surprisingly recently—within the past 500,000 years, as reported by researchers report in Cell.
We’ve all heard of the climate change, yet most of us continue as we always have. Not so for the polar bears who live in the Arctic Circle and adjacent land masses as far south as Newfoundland Island. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment expresses grave concerns about the impact of climate change, including the belief that the “current warming trend imperils the survival of the species.” Polar bears are now listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the endangered list. Some of the decline is due to climate change, but with eight of the nineteen polar bear sub-populations in decline, the major causes are:
- conflicts with shipping
- pollution in the form of toxic contaminants
- stresses from recreational polar-bear watching
- oil and gas exploration and development
- large scale hunting (legal and illegal)
However, with the help of controls and quotas, the populations seem to be rebounding.
For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual and cultural life of Eskimos (Arctic-indigenous people), and still remains important in their culture today. But will the bears survive for thousands of years into the future?