As polar seas heat up, mammals will find less slow, stupid prey

A polar bear keeps close to her young in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, in a March 6, 2007 handout photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 January 2019

As polar seas heat up, mammals will find less slow, stupid prey

  • The scientists estimated that every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) increase in sea surface temperature will lead to a 12 percent decline in the abundance of marine mammals

OSLO: Global warming will make life harder for mammals and birds hunting in polar seas by perking up fish that were slow, stupid and easy to catch in icy waters, scientists said on Thursday.
Seals, whales, penguins and other warm-bodied creatures rule polar seas partly because their constant internal temperatures let them put on bursts of speed and stay more alert than cold-blooded prey, they wrote in the journal Science.
But rising temperatures in the Arctic Ocean and seas around Antarctica are slowly enlivening fish, from small capelin to large sharks, whose bodies and brains go slow in frigid waters.
“Overall, warm-bodied predators are favored where prey are slow, stupid, and cold,” the scientists, led by John Grady at Michigan State University, wrote in the study.
“Being faster than your prey or enemies ... is an important advantage for surviving and getting food,” Grady told Reuters in an email of the findings by scientists in the United States, Germany, Canada and England.
DEADLIER SHARKS “Faster sharks are deadlier sharks. The most vulnerable mammals and birds are those that feed on fast-moving fish and have to worry about shark predators: this includes many penguins, puffins and sea lions,” he wrote.
The wide diversity of marine mammals and seabirds in polar regions is a biological oddity, because species tend to be more varied nearer the equator. The warm-body advantage in frigid waters helps explain the paradox.
The scientists estimated that every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) increase in sea surface temperature will lead to a 12 percent decline in the abundance of marine mammals.
Almost 200 governments pledged in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit a rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees C above pre-industrial times by phasing out fossil fuels. But governments are lagging behind and temperatures are expected to rise 3C (5.4F) or so by 2100, the UN estimates.
The polar power struggle between warm- and cold-blooded creatures is one aspect of warming that is also driving many species of fish and other marine life toward the poles or to the depths.
And scientists have found that thick layers of blubber, a sign of health for Arctic mammals, have thinned on harp seals and minke whales in recent years. That may signal that they are losing out to rival cod in catching smaller fish.
“Cod have invaded some of the areas where the harp seals and minke whales used to feed without competition,” Tore Haug, a scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, told Reuters. He was not involved in Thursday’s study.


Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

Updated 19 August 2019

Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

  • Then Russian Navy Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko wrote the letter when he was a 36-year-old aboard the Sulak
ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.
Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, television station KTUU reported.
“I was just looking for firewood when I found the bottle,” Tyler Ivanoff said. “When I found the bottle, I had to use a screwdriver to get the message out.”
Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated June 20, 1969. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.
Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko, KTUU reported.
He was skeptical he wrote the note until he saw his signature on the bottom.
“There — exactly!” he exclaimed.
The message was sent while the then 36-year-old was aboard the Sulak, Botsanenko said. Botsanenko shed tears when the Russian television reporter told him the Sulak was sold for scrap in the 1990s.
Botsanenko also showed the reporter some souvenirs from his time on the ship, including the autograph of the wife of a famous Russian spy and Japanese liquor bottles, the latter kept over his wife’s protests.
Ivanoff’s discovery of the bottle was first reported by Nome radio station KNOM.