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Global warming means polar bears are now eating dolphins for the first time ever

Desperate measures.

doi:10.3402/polar.v34.26612 A male polar bear, having covered up the remains of a white-beaked dolphin in the Arctic, in April 2014. Source: Jon Aars/Norwegian Polar Institute/Polar Research

Warning: This article contains an image of a feeding animal that some readers might prefer not to see.

FOR THE FIRST time ever, scientists have seen polar bears eating dolphins in the Arctic.

And they’re blaming global warming.

Polar bears feed mainly on seals, but Jon Aars at the Norwegian Polar Institute has photographed dolphins being devoured by a bear.

It is likely that new species are appearing in the diet of polar bears due to climate change because new species are finding their way north.

The first incident he documented was in April 2014, when his team came across a polar bear feeding on the carcasses of two white-beaked dolphins, as described in the latest edition of the journal Polar Research.

Although dolphins are regularly seen in the Norwegian Arctic in the summer months when the ice has melted, they have never been seen during winter or spring when the sea is usually still covered in sheets of ice.

Aars said the bear he photographed (above) had probably caught the two dolphins when they surfaced to breathe through a tiny hole in the ice.

Even if they saw the bear, the dolphins did not necessarily have any other choice.

20140704_205337 An adult polar bear feeding on the remains of a white-beaked dolphin in Raudfjorden on 2 July 2014. Source: Samuel Blanc

In one of the photos, a visibly skinny old male bear devours one of the dolphins and appeared to have stored a second one under snow for later, something which the scientists had never seen before.

We think that he tried to cover the dolphin in snow in the hope that other bears, foxes or birds would have less of a chance of finding it.
Maybe to be able to eat it a day or two later, once he had digested the first one.

After the first incident in 2014, a further five cases of dolphins stranded or captured and then eaten by bears have been reported.

“I don’t think that this signifies a great upheaval” in the diet of the carnivores, said Aars.

It’s just that the polar bear is coming into contact with species they have not been used to meeting until now.

Contains reporting by AFP.

Read: 2014 was the hottest year in modern history>

Read: Not worried about global warming? Here’s why you should be>

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Dan MacGuill

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