As if climate change wasn't causing them enough grief, several Alaskan polar bears appear to be suffering from a loss of fur and other skin lesions.
Over the past two weeks, nine bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region have shown signs of alopecia. Researchers say the animals are otherwise healthy, despite not knowing the cause and significance of the sores.
According to U.S. Geological Survey scientists, polar bears aren’t the first to be diagnosed with alopecia—it has been observed in both wild and captive animals. These symptoms are similar to that discovered in a large number of ringed seals. The disease outbreak was first recognized last summer and saw about 60 seals die, with another 75 infected. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deemed this epidemic an Unusual Mortality Event on Dec. 20, 2011.
However, animals aren’t the only ones that suffer from alopecia. It affects people too. Below are some facts about the hair loss disease.
- There are two main types of alopecia.
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes hair to fall out.
- The cause of alopecia areata is unknown. Scientists believe that a person’s genes may play a role.
- Androgenetic alopecia is an inherited hair loss.
- 60% of people with androgenetic alopecia are men. Hair loss caused by this is permanent.
- There is currently no data on why this also occurs in animals.
What can you do?
- Reason to save polar bears.