Experts have discovered that polar bears are now eating dolphins in the Arctic areas of Norway. This is the first time that scientists have been able to observe polar bears feasting on the said marine animals. The white-beaked dolphins looked like they were stuck underneath an icy fjord as they ventured up north possibly in response to climate change.
The scientists first discovered this new predator-prey tandem in April 2014. They were then observing a site 80 degrees below latitude when they saw the bear with the dolphins, and took photos. One polar bear appeared skinnier than normal as manifested by the visible ribs underneath its fur. The experts then saw the polar bear finish off one carcass and buried another one, probably to preserve it for a later time. In July 2014, the research team found seven more dolphins in the site.
"Before we saw this, there was almost no ice," said Jon Aars, lead author and biologist at the Norwegian Polar Institute. But during the latter part of March and through April, ice formed and extended into the fjord. With this, the dolphins who moved in the area had a tiny surface hole left for them to breath into. The polar bears saw this and did what they always do to catch seals—staying above the surface and waiting for the prey to come out as it gasp for oxygen.
The dolphins usually settle between Europe and Canada, particularly in Atlantic waters. But several reports show that their species are moving up north. Sperms whales, which are typically found in the North Atlantic, have fallen prey to polar bears, says Andrew Derocher told VICE News. Derocher is a professor at Canada's University of Alberta and a biologist, who spent more than 30 years studying polar bears.
The bears are also in a state of struggle, according to scientists. Continuous warming of the climate disables large predators like polar bears to find good and ample sources of food. According to Aars, the presence of the dolphin in the said area where the action was observed is actually a little blessing for the polar bears.
"What we're seeing is a lot more species that are normally found in lower latitudes drifting further and further north over time," says Derocher. The increasing migration of different species have become typical due to the rise of the temperatures all over the world. Some scientists have actually observed butterflies, birds and other animals move up north in the previous years.
Even in the Arctic regions, the temperatures have increased as well, doubling the rate of all temperature increases all around the world. This then creates a new habitat for many species, not normally found in these areas. "They're not in their normal range, but of course they follow food," Derocher said. "And because there's no sea ice, they're happy to go into those areas. But the perils are that if the sea ice conditions change quickly, and they can ... they get trapped."