Alaskan Pandas? Scientists Unraveling Mystery of Maturing Motherhood in Polar Bears

**Alaska, United States** – For decades, scientists have observed polar bears venturing farther south during the summer months, an apparent adaptation to climate change as sea ice recedes. But a new study reveals a surprising twist: female polar bears are giving birth to their first cubs later in life, a shift that could have significant implications for the species’ survival..

Dr. Kristin Laidre, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, and her colleagues analyzed data on more than 1,000 polar bears tracked over 20 years in the southern Beaufort Sea. They found that the average age of first-time mothers increased from 6.5 to 9.5 years between 1986 and 2016..

This delayed onset of motherhood could be a response to the loss of sea ice, Laidre says. Polar bears rely on sea ice for hunting, mating, and raising their young. As sea ice melts earlier and forms later, polar bears have less time to hunt and build up fat reserves, which are essential for successful reproduction..

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