Historical Polar Bear Stays Defined By Sea Ice and Polynyas: My Peer-Reviewed Paper

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From Polar Bear Science

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Dr. Susan Crockford

My open-access, peer-reviewed paper on the ecology of historic polar bears in relation to sea ice has simply been printed in Open Quaternary. It’s referred to as ‘Polar Bear Fossil and Archaeological Information from the Pleistocene and Holocene in Relation to Sea Ice Extent and Open Water Polynyas’.

A novel compilation of greater than 104 polar bear skeletal data from the Holocene and late Pleistocene reveals that almost all historic stays are related to current or historic open water polynyas or the enlargement of sea ice throughout previous chilly durations. This big-picture evaluation signifies that as they do right now, polar bears had been mostly discovered close to polynyas all through their recognized historic previous due to their want for ice-edge habitats.

Learn my longer abstract beneath and obtain the paper here. This can be a much-updated and expanded evaluation based mostly on a casual examine I did in 2012.

Polar Bear Fossil and Archaeological Information from the Pleistocene and Holocene in Relation to Sea Ice Extent and Open Water Polynyas

Polar bear mandibles from the museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia, which I visited in Could 2014. The traditional specimen is from an archaeological website on the Yamal Peninsula (Kara Sea) which may be the location described in the paper as Tiutie-Sale 1, the fashionable specimen was collected from Chukotka. SJ Crockford photograph.

No Arctic animal is extra iconic than its apex predator, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus). Nonetheless, its distribution throughout time and house has not beforehand been reported. Pure dying skeletal specimens of this species (‘fossils’) are uncommon however archaeological stays are rather more frequent. This historic compilation presents the report of recognized historic polar bear stays from fossil and archaeological contexts earlier than AD 1910.

Areas of historic polar bear stays described within the paper; some have a number of bone assemblages.

Most polar bear stays date to the Holocene (the final 11,700 years) and are available from human habitation websites throughout the fashionable vary of the species. Specimens discovered outdoors the fashionable vary (extralimital) have been documented within the north Atlantic through the late Pleistocene (ca. 115,000- 11,700) and the southern Bering Sea through the center Holocene (ca. 8,300-4,200 years in the past), together with pure expansions of sea ice throughout recognized chilly durations.

Surprisingly, the one largest assemblage of this species can be the oldest archaeological website with polar bear stays. Zhokhov is among the northern-most islands within the East Siberia Sea, Russia which polar bears females nonetheless use right now as a denning space. The location was occupied primarily throughout a brief interval (ca. 8,000-7,900 years in the past) close to the start of the Holocene Climatic Optimum (about 9,000-5,500 years in the past), when the Arctic was hotter than right now. Virtually 6,000 polar bear bones had been recovered from Zhokhov Island, which represented about 28% of all of the animal stays recognized on the website.

In just about all different archaeological websites worldwide, lower than 3.5% of recognized stays had been polar bear. The Zhokhov Island assemblage can be our first proof of the return of polar bears to the western Arctic after terribly thick sea ice through the Final Ice Age (ca. 30,000-19,700 years in the past) drove seals and bears into the north Pacific.

This examine reveals that polar bear stays are most frequently present in proximity to areas the place polynyas (recurring areas of skinny ice or open water surrounded by sea ice) are recognized right now and which possible additionally occurred previously. As a consequence, the oldest recognized fossil (dated to about 130-115k years in the past) and the oldest recognized archaeological specimens (dated to about 8,000 years in the past) had been possible related to polynyas as nicely. This sample signifies that as they do right now, polar bears might have been mostly discovered close to polynyas all through their recognized historic previous due to their want for ice-edge habitats at which to hunt seals, their major prey.

Fashionable polynya areas mentioned within the paper.

Quotation: Crockford, S. J. 2022. Polar bear fossil and archaeological data from the Pleistocene and Holocene in relation to sea ice extent and open water polynyas. Open Quaternary 8(7): 1-26. https://doi.org.10.5334/oq.107


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