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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Deadly Hurricane Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," it began lashing Alabama late Wednesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

52 mins ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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