A polar bear was caught sinking its teeth into a dolphin somewhere in the Smeerenburgfjorden, in the archipelago of Svalbard, in Norway, last July. The photograph was taken by Jon Aars, from the Norwegian Polar Institute.
His research article was published in this month’s issue of the online journal Polar Research, on June 1st, where he released the picture of a white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) being eaten by a polar bear. The dolphin was most probably 5 to 9 feet long, according to the article the researchers published.
The bear also had another white-beaked dolphin lying not too far from where it was having the big meal. It most probably was saving the other uneaten dolphin for later.
It seems that climate change has affected polar bears’ diet among so many other things too. It was the first time a polar bear was ever seen feasting on a dolphin.
The better question might be how those dolphins actually got there, given the fact that they prefer the sub-Arctic and almost never swim so far north.
“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,” Jon Aars said.
According to another research paper published in one of the 2008 issues of Geophysical Research Letters, because the surface water temperature has increased significantly during the last decades, it led to extreme melting in 2007.
Before that, white-beaked dolphins had never been seen so far north, as the fjords used to be always covered in ice. However, within the previous two years, the researchers said the winters were almost completely ice-free.
Even if the photo was taken in July, the team of researchers led by Aars had documented the findings a few months before, when they saw bears eating from the carcasses of two dolphins in April 2014.
The dolphins probably got trapped when the wind blocked their way with ice and this is how they became an easy prey for the bears, who were able to capture them.
Bears have been seen feeding on other even larger animals in the past. These included narwhals or belugas.
Many polar bears are literally starving to death because of climate change and because seals are so much more difficult to find and catch than they used to be. This is why it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that they are constantly on the lookout for alternatives for food. Thus,dolphins can become the new source of food for these animals who are struggling to survive.
Image Source: vice