The polar bear — that pinnacle of megafauna adulation — could disappear from the planet this century as a result of global warming, according to a top scientist. The Arctic-dwelling animal, which is the world’s largest land predator, is thought to be particularly susceptible to climate change because it relies on floating sea ice to catch seals and hitch lifts from feeding grounds back to denning areas. Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate as high as 9 percent per decade, meaning the summers there could be entirely ice-free by 2050. That could spell doom for the polar bear: “As the sea ice disappears, so will the polar bears,” said Andrew Derocher of Canada’s University of Alberta at Edmonton. Polar bear populations in the southern Arctic are most at risk, but ultimately, the species will have to change its eating habits or die out, unless the pace of climate change is significantly slowed.