Polar Bear Shrinkage

Alarming news, at least for female polar bears: Polar Bear Genitals are Shrinking.

The icecap may not be the only thing shrinking in the Arctic. The genitals of polar bears in east Greenland are apparently dwindling in size due to industrial pollutants. Scientists report this shrinkage could, in the worst case scenario, endanger polar bears there and elsewhere by spoiling their love lives and causing their numbers to peter out. [Unfortunate choice of words. -ed.]

In fact, all marine mammals could get affected by these pollutants, “especially the Arctic fox, killer whale and pilot whales,” wildlife veterinarian and toxicologist Christian Sonne at the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark in Roskilde told LiveScience. These animals bodies also carry extremely high levels of these contaminants.

Polar bears from northernmost Norway, western Russia and east Greenland are among the most polluted animals in the Arctic, as they feast on ringed seals and bearded seals. The blubber of these seals accumulates high levels of organic pollutants loaded with halogens such as chlorine. These organohalogens can act like hormones.

For those wondering how the scientists figured this out:

Sonne and his colleagues looked at formaldehyde-preserved genitals from 55 male and 44 female east Greenland polar bears, collected from 1999 to 2002 by about 30 polar bear subsistence hunters regulated by the Greenland government.

Just bad news all around for the bears, I’d say.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Or is this just proof that genitals soaked in formaldehyde tend to shrink over time?

    You’ll pardon me if I don’t intend to test this hypothesis by experiment.

  2. Hoodlumman says:

    For male polar bears, this probably isn’t bad news.

  3. Are we sure these genitalia aren’t all from polar bears that drowned due to the complete melting of the polar ice cap caused by global warming? That might explain the, ahem, shrinkage.

    I’m curious though,what exactly did the 44 female polar bears contribute to this study. If they didn’t take the polar bear’s sex into account, perhaps that’s what dragged down the average a bit.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    And they say that all the good jobs are taken!

  5. I know a man who’s job involves determining the potential potency of a bull by measuring the size of the bulls scrotum. Since part of this is in assessing the future value of the bull in siring offspring, nothing is detached and in formaldehyde filled jars if you get my drift.

    I’m just thinking that the people at Greenpeace and PETA need to head on over to Greenland to start a similar service for determining which are the most valuable polar bears to continue the breeding.

  6. Anderson says:

    I know a man who’s job involves determining the potential potency of a bull by measuring the size of the bulls scrotum

    How the heck do you … oh, right. “Very carefully.” Got it.

  7. Richard Gardner says:

    In fact, all marine mammals could get affected by these pollutants, “especially the Arctic fox, killer whale and pilot whales….”

    Arctic Foxes are now marine mammels? News to me.

    The issue of some pollutants concentrating at the top of the food chain isn’t a new concept, nor unique to the Arctic. The orcas of the Puget Sound have high levels of PCBs and other industrial chemicals.

  8. John Poleshek says:

    The scientist in question assume that small genitals endanger polar bears love making however since they cannot speak to and interview
    the female of the species to determine the actual
    effect of smaller genitals on love making. I suggest they find another species of mammal which
    they can readily communicate with which to test the hypothesis. In fact I am sure with the amount of male human mammals available with small genitals
    and females who engage in love making polar bear style would be substantial enough to have several
    hundred double blind experiments

  9. John Poleshek says:

    Better make that several hundred million double
    blind experiments.

  10. Bithead says:

    Then, of course, there’s Bob, the Polar bear.
    Sam did the buddy thing and got Bob to try Enzork. Now, Bob’s feeling a new swelling of pride…

    Oops. Sorry.

  11. LJD says:

    It could just be evolution…
    …evidence that the small ones are getting all the action.

  12. McGehee says:

    But how do the polar bears feel about “macaca?” That’s what’s really important.