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Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Found further north than any other species of bear, the polar bear is uniquely adapted to life in the Arctic. In this remote, frozen landscape, the polar bear is the apex predator (i.e. it is at the top of the Arctic food chain).

The polar bear’s scientific name is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear. Polar bears are the only bear species considered to be a marine mammal. Polar bears spend most of their time in or around water. They are excellent swimmers and divers.

One polar bear, which was fitted with a radio collar, was tracked swimming 687 km (427 miles) in a single journey. The bear was at sea for 9 days (sadly during the journey she lost her cub.)

A polar bear can swim underwater for up to 3 minutes.

Polar bears, or “sea bears,” are the world’s largest land predators, weighing up to 600 kg (1300 lb.) and measuring up to 3 m (10 ft.) tall. On average they live to be about 25 years old, reaching sexual maturity at around 4 years.

Although they appear white or yellow in color, their fur is actually clear and hollow, and their skin is black. Their visibly pale coloring is caused by the reflection and scattering of light.

The difference in size between male and female polar bears is proportionally one of the largest of all mammals. Male polar bears are often twice the size of females!

Underneath the polar bear’s white coat its skin is black – this helps to absorb heat.

The older a polar bear, the yellower its coat becomes

Whereas most bears are omnivores (i.e. they eat both plants and meat), the polar bear’s diet is almost entirely carnivorous. The polar bear is the most carnivorous of all bears.

Polar bears have been seen 25 km (15.5 miles) from the North Pole!

A polar bear has extremely large paws. Reaching up to 12 in (31 cm) in width, they help to spread the bear’s weight when it is walking over deep snow or on thin ice. They also provide propulsion when the bear is swimming.

The pads of a polar bear’s paws are hairy and covered in small bumps to prevent the bear from slipping.

Polar bears are currently listed as vulnerable by IUCN’s Red List. Global warming greatly impacts the fate of the polar bear. A reduction of large masses of ice results in limited access to seals. Not only does this adversely affect the health of adult polar bears, it also hinders the successful reproduction and nourishment of new bear cubs. Rising temperatures also result in unstable maternity dens, as snowdrifts melt and collapse.

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