Polar Bear Mercury Poisoning

Climate change leads to high concentrations of mercury in polar bears.

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Global warming may be responsible for contaminating polar bears with high levels of mercury, according to new research from scientists at the University of Canterbury and the University of Michigan. Researchers examined polar bear specimens and data from the early 1900s, before dependence on fossil fuels rose. They found that polar bears primarily ate phytoplankton, microscopic plants that float on the surface of the ocean, and algae that live on sea ice. However, rising temperatures are causing ice caps to melt and are forcing polar bears to rely heavily on phytoplankton for food, which contains more mercury than algae.