Using museum data of adult specimens whose sex, age, and locality are known, we studied temporal and geographical body size trends among the otter, Lutra lutra, in Norway. We found that body size of the otters increased during the last quarter of the twentieth century, and suggest that this trend is related to increased food availability from fish farming and possibly also to energy saving due to elevated sea temperatures. Birth year and death year explained 38.8 and 43.5%, respectively, of the variation in body size. Body size of otters was positively related to latitude, thus conforming to Bergmann's rule.
We review seven Arctic and four subarctic marine mammal species, their habitat requirements, and evidence for biological and demographic responses to climate change. We then describe a pan-Arctic quantitative index of species sensitivity to climate change based on population size, geographic range, habitat specificity, diet diversity, migration, site fidelity, sensitivity to changes in sea ice, sensitivity to changes in the trophic web, and maximum population growth potential (R(max)). The index suggests three types of sensitivity based on: (1) narrowness of distribution and specialization in feeding, (2) seasonal dependence on ice, and (3) reliance on sea ice as a structure for access to prey and predator avoidance. Based on the index, the hooded seal, the polar bear, and the narwhal appear to be the three most sensitive Arctic marine mammal species, primarily due to reliance on sea ice and specialized feeding. The least sensitive species were the ringed seal and bearded seal, primarily due to large circumpolar distributions, large population sizes, and flexible habitat requirements. The index provides an objective framework for ranking species and focusing future research on the effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammals. Finally, we distinguish between highly sensitive species and good indicator species and discuss regional variation and species-specific ecology that confounds Arctic-wide generalization regarding the effects of climate change.
East Greenland and Svalbard polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are heavily polluted with long-range transported organochlorines such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). To investigate the negative health impacts, a time-trend study of skull pathology was conducted on 269 East Greenland and 241 Svalbard polar bears. The skulls were sampled during 1892-2002 and 1964-1992, respectively. Seven different pathological changes were found: adonti, displacement of teeth, caries, osseous proliferations, exostosis, tooth wear and periodontitis. Only tooth wear and periodontitis was in a prevalence that allowed statistical treatment. The most severe cases of tooth wear and periodontitis were accompanied by a substantial loss of alveolar bone structure. The prevalence of tooth wear and periodontitis increased significantly with age (p