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Polar bears on Hudson Bay fast during the summer, waiting for ice to form in the fall to hunt. Every year, the summer gets lnger, and the bears get skinnier. Over the past 25 years, the average weight of the female bears has dropped 68 kg. This loss affects their ability to reproduce, and already the number of births has dropped 15 percent.

I presume that starve is a better substitution for fast because it seems to me that the latter is out of volunteer while the form out of no choice.

Furthermore, the number of births doesn't sound as good as the birth rate in the above context to me. Your comments, thanks.
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"fast" is correct here = they reduce their food intake to a minimum. Starve would be incorrect as it means to die of hunger/total lack of food. A possible alternative might be "go hungry".

I have no problem with "number of births" - "birth rate" = number of live births per 1000 of population each year. It does not really fit this context.
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While it is true that starve can indicate extreme suffering from lack of food, the meaning that comes most readily to mind is that a polar bear that has starved is a dead polar bear. I recommend leaving it as fast. Otherwise, it comes too close to meaning Polar bears ... die of starvation during the summer, ...

CJ
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Feebs11"fast" is correct here = they reduce their food intake to a minimum. Starve would be incorrect as it means to die of hunger/total lack of food. A possible alternative might be "go hungry".

I have no problem with "number of births" - "birth rate" = number of live births per 1000 of population each year. It does not really fit this context.
Thanks, Feebs and Jim.

Just to make sure, so "number of births" and "birth rate" are actually different, right?
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Yes. Number of births is an absolute number: 15, 20000, 150000, whatever.
Birth rate is a percentage. 15%, 40%, 80%

CJ
CalifJimYes. Number of births is an absolute number: 15, 20000, 150000, whatever.
Birth rate is a percentage. 15%, 40%, 80%

CJ

Thanks, Jim, for your kindness.