Last week (May 22), I received an unsolicited email from Dr. Dag Vongraven, the current chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG).
The email from Vongraven began this way:
Below you’ll find a footnote that will accompany a total polar bear population size range in the circumpolar polar bear action plan that we are currently drafting together with the Parties to the 1973 Agreement. This might keep you blogging for a day or two.” [my bold]
It appears the PBSG have come to the realization that public outrage (or just confusion) is brewing over their global population estimates and some damage control is perhaps called for. Their solution — bury a statement of clarification within their next official missive (which I have commented upon here).
Instead of issuing a press release to clarify matters to the public immediately, Vongraven decided he would let me take care of informing the public that this global estimate may not be what it seems.
OK, I’ll oblige (I am traveling in Russia on business and finding it very hard to do even short posts – more on that later). The footnote Vongraven sent is below, with some comments from me. You can decide for yourself if the PBSG have been straight-forward about the nature of their global population estimates and transparent about the purpose for issuing it.
Posted in Population
Tagged Aars, Derocher, estimate, global numbers, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, Obbard, PBSG, polar bear, population size, Stirling, Vongraven
Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has arranged for me to give a lecture at the House of Lords (London) on June 11.
Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science
A lecture by Dr. Susan J. Crockford
When: 11 June 2014, 6pm
Where: House of Lords, Committee Room 3, London
This lecture focuses on recent research results that have shown that polar bear populations are not responding as predicted to recent declines in Arctic sea ice. Despite the fatalistic attitude of many polar bear field biologists, real-world evidence indicates that polar bears are well equipped to survive substantial variations in their Arctic sea ice habitat and have not been harmed by recent low ice coverage. Such resilience over the short term is hardly surprising, since polar bears are now known to have survived a multitude of past climate shifts of almost inconceivable magnitude.
As the venue has limited space, interested readers in the UK may contact the GWPF at email@example.com for an invitation. They will let you know if places are still available.
Hope to meet some of you there.
PS. I will be staying near Bristol later that week with relatives (June 13-15) and could take an afternoon or evening for a pub chat about polar bears and other issues, if anyone is interested. Send me a note via the contact page above.
The latest addition to the never-ending story of when-and-why polar bear evolution took place according to geneticists (Liu et al. 2014 — the 8th such paper in less than 4 years, if you can believe it) is getting way, way more media attention than it deserves.
Liu et al. 2014 figure provided in the abstract.
This multi-member research team used a new data set (mostly Scandinavian brown bears and Greenland polar bears, for a change) to add not much of anything new on the evolutionary insight front except yet another estimate of when polar bears came to be.1
However, the real focus of the paper is the description of their finding of a few genetic differences between brown bears and polar bears that they identified. They found a few genes in polar bears were different than brown bears and made a boat load of assumptions about what these might mean.
Their discovery was not accompanied by any attempt to demonstrate that the changes in gene architecture they found also involved a change in the function of the genes or were associated with different effects on bear physiology. If a changed gene cannot be shown to act differently or to have a demonstrated new physiological effect on the animal in question, the changes themselves mean next to nothing – especially for evolution!
That’s my take – see what you think. It looks long but a lot of it is quotes.
Posted in Evolution
Tagged adaptation, age of polar bears, APOB gene, blubber, brown bear, evolution, fat genes, genetic divergence, genetics, high-fat diet, Liu, polar bear, speciation, UC Berkeley, when polar bears arose
Apparently, all media outlets (except Fox News) so confused the distinction between the two common names used for the ancestor of polar bears, Ursus arctos, that they got the point of a recent news story totally wrong. An Alaskan journalist explains.
Coastal brown bears from Admiralty Island, southeast Alaska (courtesy Jim Baichtal, US Forest Service, Alaska). See previous post here.
Tundra grizzly bear from the Yukon (courtesy Government of Yukon Territory). These bears also occur across the north slope of Alaska and are the bears that occasionally hybridize with polar bears this time of year, as explained here.
Posted in Evolution, Hybridization
Tagged ABC bears, Alaska bears, Alaska brown bear, Boone and Crockett Club, brown bear, brown bears, Fox News, grizzly, grizzly bear, hybridization, media, Medred, polar bear ancestor, polar bears, tundra grizzlies
Cannot do my April follow-up to my post on the July 2013 track map for female polar bears being followed by satellite in the Beaufort Sea by the US Geological Survey (USGS) – Ten out of ten polar bears being tracked this summer in the Beaufort Sea are on the ice.
“Tracking Polar Bears by Satellite” has not yet been updated with the April map, which is unusual for this late in the month (it is usually updated within the first few working days of every month). Perhaps the sea ice data they use was late being processed?
Here is the map for March, discussed previously here.
Figure 1. Movements of 5 satellite-tagged polar bears for the month of March, 2014. Polar bears were tagged in 2013 on the spring-time sea ice of the southern Beaufort Sea. All 5 of these bears have satellite collar transmitters. Note that the dots with the polar bear icons are the end points (end March), while the other end of the string is their position in early March. These are the same 5 females that were present in January. Click to enlarge.
Previous dates for tracking available here.
Posted in Sea ice habitat
Tagged Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, polar bear, polar bear movements, polar bears, satellite collars, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, tracking polar bears, us geological survey, USGS