As the Arctic warms, a new cache of resources—snow goose eggs—may help sustain the polar bear population for the foreseeable future.
In a new study published in an early online edition of Oikos, researchers affiliated with the Museum show that even large numbers of hungry bears repeatedly raiding nests over many years would have a difficult time eliminating all of the geese because of a mismatch in the timing of bear arrival on shore and goose egg incubation.
"There have been statements in popular literature indicating that polar bears can extirpate snow geese quickly once they start to eat eggs," says Robert Rockwell, a research associate in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the Museum and a professor at the City University of New York. "However, there will always be the occasional mismatch in the overlap between the onshore arrival of bears and the incubation period of the geese. Even if the bears eat every egg during each year of complete 'match,' our model shows that periodic years of mismatch will provide windows of successful goose reproduction that will partially offset predation effects."
In the last few years, work along the Cape Churchill Peninsula of western Hudson Bay by Rockwell and colleagues has suggested that polar bears are not as hamstrung by their environment as many biologists believe. One new nutritional option for polar bears is the bounty of goose eggs which had previously hatched into goslings that were gone by the time bears came ashore. In recent years, 'early' bears have left breaking sea ice to come ashore and consume eggs. In fact, the earlier the bears come ashore, the better: eggs are higher in nutrients when the embryo is younger.
In the new Oikos paper, Rockwell and coauthors Linda Gormezano (also affiliated with the Museum) and David Koons (a researcher at Utah State University in Logan) simulated the timing of events during the Arctic spring: the break-up of sea ice, the movement of bears onto shore, the migration of geese to the North, and the laying of eggs. Results from the computer model show that the mismatch of timing is something that both the bears and geese can use to their advantage. The timing of geese migration is primarily based on photoperiod (the amount of light in 24 hours), which will not change as quickly as polar bear movements, which are based on the melting of sea ice.
Results show that the advance in mean overlap of the two species gives an advantage to polar bears. But increased variability, also the result of global climate change, leads to an increased mismatch that is good news for snow geese.
"Mismatch is often thought to be bad, but in this case periodic mismatch is good because it keeps geese from going extinct and allows polar bears to eat," says Rockwell. "Are polar bears adaptable? Of course. This could be a nice stable system. The geese aren't going to go away, and they are a nutrient resource for the bears."
The research for this paper was supported by the Hudson Bay Project.
Kristin Phillips | EurekAlert!
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2018 | Information Technology
17.08.2018 | Life Sciences