Brendan P. Kelly, Research Scientist National Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA and Professor, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Over the past 12 million years, a diversity of mammals evolved specializations for exploiting Arctic sea ice. Other marine mammals—lacking adaptations to ice—have been isolated from one another by sea ice and have evolved along separate paths in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. For the past 10,000 years, Arctic people have developed cultures around the seasonal availability of Arctic marine mammals. Today, 11 ice-associated marine mammal species face unprecedented rapid loss of a continent-sized habitat as Arctic sea ice diminishes. A skeptical analysis (a first principal of science) of ecological and evolutionary data indicate that rapid changes in food resources, predation, competition, and interbreeding threaten many species as well as traditional ways of life among Arctic people. Responding to these changes will require sound analyses, mitigation, and adaptation.
Read the Anchorage Daily News story: Melting Arctic ice could foster species interbreeding
Read the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story: Some scientists think receding sea ice could lead to species mingling
Read the Nunatsiaq News story: Biologist sees mammal hybrids as Arctic warms