Postnatal growth in body length and mass of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) at Svalbard


*All correspondence to: A. E. Derocher. E-mail:


The von Bertalanffy curve was used to examine growth patterns in both body length and mass of female and male polar bears Ursus maritimus live-captured near Svalbard, Norway. A longer growth period in males resulted in pronounced sexual dimorphism in both body length and mass. Males were 1.16 times longer and 2.10 times heavier than females. The asymptotic body length of female and male polar bears from Svalbard was smaller than that for polar bears in four of six previously studied populations. Asymptotic body mass of females from Svalbard was lower than other previously studied populations, while males were generally lighter. The reasons for the lighter bears in Svalbard are unclear, but we believe they were not related to sampling error, ecosystem productivity, or genetic differences. The high pollution load of polar bears in Svalbard may have affected body size but this potential factor could not be assessed. The generally smaller size of polar bears in Svalbard was consistent with density-dependent growth effects but again, information on population density relative to carrying capacity was insufficient to assess this hypothesis.