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iStock

Hungry Polar Bears Can't Conserve Energy That Well

iStock
iStock

Climate change has caused temperatures to rise and sea ice in the Arctic to melt. This is a serious problem for polar bears, who hunt seals along the slabs of solid ice. Seals have moved further north, leaving polar bears with dwindling food supplies.

Scientists had postulated that the polar bears could weather these food shortages by entering a so-called "walking hibernation" state. In 1983, researcher Ralph A. Nelson had hypothesized that this state was one "in which the biochemistry of hibernation is integrated with physical activity, but food and water intake are minimal," [PDF] giving scientists hope that by cutting down on their nutrient needs, polar bear populations could withstand the trials of climate change.

Unfortunately, new research disproves the walking hibernation theory. A new study published in Science detailing research led by the University of Wyoming’s John Whiteman found that although polar bears reduce their activity and body temperatures in summer, their metabolism doesn't slow and their nutrient needs don't drop.

From location transmitters, activity logs, and temperature probes, the researchers were able to put together a comprehensive understanding of the polar bears' metabolism. "We found that polar bears appear unable to meaningfully prolong their reliance on stored energy, confirming their vulnerability to lost hunting opportunities on the sea ice," Whiteman said in a statement.

The study required years of intense logistical coordination—so much so that Whiteman speculates "it may never be replicated." Dozens of polar bears were tracked, sedated, captured, studied, fitted with a range of monitoring equipment, released for 18 months, re-captured and, ultimately, re-released. "Many colleagues—even some on our research team—doubted whether the study was possible, until we actually did it," said University of Wyoming co-author Merav Ben-David.

University of Alberta scientist Andrew Derocher, who was unaffiliated with the study, told io9, "this study provides further insights into the long-term challenges facing polar bears throughout the circumpolar Arctic over the coming decades."

Those challenges may prove insurmountable for polar bears. In Science, Whiteman concludes, "this suggests that bears are unlikely to avoid deleterious declines in body condition, and ultimately survival, that are expected with continued ice loss and lengthening of the ice-melt period."

[h/t io9]

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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Bristly
A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth
Bristly
Bristly

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.
Bristly

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.

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