Polar Bear Facts: 11-15 | Appearance
11. Polar bears appear white in color but they are not so. It is an illusion created by its fur. Their fur has two layers – a dense underfur and a not-so-dense outer layer known as guard hairs. The guard hairs that we see are actually transparent and they give the appearance of white to tan – a unique adaptation for the polar bears in their immediate surroundings.
12. Why are the guard hairs transparent? Scientists think that it is so because the two genes – AIM1 and LYST – responsible for influencing melanin production have both been mutated. As a result of this mutation, the guard hairs do not have any pigment.
13. The guard hairs are around 2 inches to 6 inches long and present over almost whole of the body of a polar bear.
14. Polar bears are known for moulting between the months May and August (both included) however, they are not known for shedding their coat to get a darker shade that provides camouflage during the summer months.
15. As the polar bears age, their white coat gradually gets yellowish. Those polar bears that are kept in captivity in warmer places such as zoos will usually have their fur turned into a pale shade of green. This happens because the humid conditions allow algal growth inside guard hairs.
Polar Bear Facts: 16-20 | Appearance
16. There was a time when it was thought that the transparent and hollow guard hairs of the polar bears helped in conducting light all the way back to their skin for absorption by acting as fiber optics. In 1998 however, scientific studies managed to disprove this theory.
17. The change is color of the fur is usually because of oxidation during summer months or simply because of changes in light conditions.
18. Male polar bears have ornamental hair on their forelegs. These ornamental hair are way longer than the female counterparts.
19. It is believed that the long ornamental hair serve a similar purpose as that of lion’s mane – that is they help the males to attract females.
20. The ornamental hair grows till the males attain the age of 14 years. After that, the ornamental hair on their forelegs simply stop growing.