1/25/2011 3:46:16 PM

Marathon Swim Takes Toll

A female polar bear's long, exhausting swim in search of sea ice led to the loss of her cub and a 22% weight drop, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey published in Polar Biology. The mother bear, who was fitted with a satellite collar, swam nonstop for over nine days, covering a distance of 426 miles.

"This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were two to six degrees C," research zoologist George M. Durner told the BBC. "We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold. It is truly an amazing feat."

Durner said that while the journey led the female to lose nearly one-fourth of her body weight, it was more devastating for her cub, which didn't survive.

The bear was fitted with a GPS collar and also had a temperature logger implanted under her skin, allowing scientists to track her movements and record how long she stayed in the water. Studies like this help scientists gain needed data to help policy makers and the public understand the changes taking place in the Arctic and the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

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