Shrinking Sea Ice Causing Animal Crossbreeding

As the Arctic Sea ice continues to shrink, wildlife is facing some serious and widespread consequences. Scientists are examining the relationships between algae, plankton, whales and land animals to see exactly what the impacts might be. They’ve discovered some very disturbing findings.

Essentially, as sea ice disappears, so with it goes the food chain, critical to the animal’s survival, since sea-ice algae and sub-ice plankton account for about 57 percent of the total biological makeup of the Arctic Ocean.

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Each year more than 86,000 square kilometers withers away.

Both ocean and land dwelling animals will be affected by the disruption in their food sources due to temperature changes that have affected plant communities even inland.

The other surprising and alarming outcome is the inevitable  intermingling of animal species’. For example, normally, ice acts as a kind of  barrier for polar and grizzly bears, without the sea ice, there’s the definite possibility of encounters between the two.

Scientists confirmed last week that a bear shot by an Inuvialuit hunter in the Northwest Territories is a second-generation grizzly-polar bear hybrid—a “pizzly” or “grolar” bear.

“We know that, for some species, sea ice acts as a barrier to intermixing,” said Eric Post, one of the researchers, in a news release. “So for these species, ice loss and a lengthening of the ice-free season likely will increase population mixing, reducing genetic differentiation.” In fact, scientists have already polar and grizzly bear hybrids since polar bears are spending more time on land.

 

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