Eggs taking the place of seals in polar bear dinner table

What is the relation between polar bears and Canadian geese, I ask you? Well, the predation kind! Last year there was a lot of media coverage (e.g.) on a series of papers from a group with the American Museum of Natural History in New York that suggested polar bears were diversifying their diet from their usual mammal-based dinners to a more omnivorous one, as a result of ice habitat melting.

“… a series of papers based on analysis of polar bear poop […] indicate that at least some of the bears are finding food to eat when they come ashore, ranging from bird eggs and caribou to grass seeds and berries.” (John Roach, NBC News)

This time, a group from Carleton University and the Environment Canada-National Wildlife Research Centre, in Ottawa, Canada, conducted a research published this month on the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (281: 20133128), showing a direct correlation between diminishing sea ice coverage and the use of ancillary prey resources. In the past three decades, polar bear visits to “snack sites”, like the nests of colonial birds, have increased seven-fold. Their research attests to the resilience of polar bears in the face of climate change, but also suggests ecological impacts on lower rungs of the food ladder.

Polar bear in thick billed murre colony. Cape Pembroke. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20133128

Polar bear in thick billed murre colony. Cape Pembroke. From: Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20133128

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