Polar bears are desperately adapting to a warmer world with less ice, and we should all feel pretty bad about it.
The latest bittersweet news comes from a recent study in Polar Biology. There, researchers report seeing a polar bear dive underwater for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. That's far and away the world record for a polar bear dive: Until now, they'd only been observed diving for around 30 seconds at a time, with the longest-ever dive clocking in at just over a minute as a bear searched for kelp.
This new record is certainly impressive, but it's also depressing. The researchers report that the bear in question was "emaciated" and going after some seals sitting on an ice floe. Without the cover that colder waters full of ice floes may have provided, the hungry bear had no choice but to stay underwater if it wanted to be stealthy. Unfortunately, its prey got away.
The researchers believe the bears may be adapting to climate change to some degree. The problem is that the bears have little hope of evolving into deep-diving creatures who don't need ice in time to survive climate change unscathed. A few breath-holding bears does not a species make.
It seems that polar bears will put up quite the fight against their rapidly changing habitat. Previous studies have shown that the bears are moving farther north, and researchers have spotted them eating unusual prey, like dolphins, in order to survive. But these piecemeal adaptations, while impressive, are unlikely to relieve the entire population as temperatures warm and ice disappears.