Jun 21, 2017

Climate change forces polar bears to change diet

While climate change is drastically impacting polar bears' habitats by shrinking the Arctic ice they call home, Scientific American reports some of the bears are being forced to change their diets, resulting in lower mercury consumption. Mercury is toxic to the bears, and can impair neurological development if consumed at high levels.

Melissa McKinney, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Connecticut, conducted a study of the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear subpopulation. Studying hair samples from 2004 to 2011, McKinney saw "a 65% drop in the bears' mercury levels."

Good news/Bad news: McKinney said while the "bad news is that the bears are losing vital habitat," the good news is that bears being forced to change their diets "have lower levels of toxic mercury."

Go deeper: Because of the shrinking ice, bears are unable to hunt their normal prey: seals. By being forced on land, they have had to find food elsewhere. Some have gravitated toward eating bowhead whale carcasses that have been picked apart and discarded by hunters. McKinney explains in her study that only 20% of the bears are feeding on these carcasses, leaving 80% of the population to fast until the freezing season when they can hunt more successfully. If the other 80% of the bears start feeding on the whale carcasses as well, "the subsidies may not be sufficient for the number of individuals making use of them."

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History's largest lockdown leaves Indian workers stranded, afraid

A migrant worker on the move with his child, in Gurugram, India. Photo: Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty

Few moments better capture the world into which we've slipped than the decision of one man to order 1.4 billion into lockdown.

Why it matters: India’s three-week lockdown is the largest ever attempted, and it sparked South Asia's greatest migration since partition in 1947. While the economic effects could be devastating, the public health crisis it's intended to fend off could be more destructive still.

Go deeperArrow11 mins ago - World

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 782,319 — Total deaths: 37,582 — Total recoveries: 164,565.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 161,807 — Total deaths: 2,953 — Total recoveries: 5,595.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30.
  4. State updates: Rural-state governors say testing is still inadequate, contradicting Trump — Virginia, Maryland and D.C. issue stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states.
  5. Business latest: Ford and General Electric aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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First U.S. service member dies from coronavirus

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The Pentagon on Monday announced the death of a member of the New Jersey National Guard who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's the first U.S. service member — active, reserve or Guard — to die from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The guardsman passed away on Saturday after being hospitalized for the novel coronavirus on March 21.

Go deeperArrow54 mins ago - Health