In our last article on polar bear facts we learned about some unique and unbelievable trivia about these Lords of the Arctic. We did not mention anything about their scientific classification, about their dietary habits and reproduction and the threats they face. In this article on polar bear facts we are going to cover those elements in details. This is going to be somewhat mundane but perfect in case you are looking for some facts about the white bears for your school homework. So, let us begin…
Before we start with the facts, let us take a look at scientific classification of polar bears:
|Binomial Name||Ursus maritimus|
Polar Bear Facts: 1-5 | Physical Characteristics
1. Of all bear species that exist on earth, the polar bear is the largest. However, there is one exception to this. There is a subspecies of brown bear known as the Kodiak bear which is just as large as polar bear.
2. As per Polar Bear International, a bear’s height is measured from its shoulders when it stands on all its four legs. With this measurement method in mind, the average height of polar bear ranges between 3.5 feet (1 meter) to 5 feet (1.5 meters).
3. However, if a male adult polar bear stands on its hind legs, it can reach the height of 10 feet or more. The tallest specimen till date has been recorded at 11 feet and 1 inch tall.
4. If we try to measure the length of a polar bear all the way from its head to its rump, the average length is 7.25 feet (2.2 meters) to 8 feet (2.5 meters). However, if the tail is thrown in the measurement, the length increases by another 3 inches to 5 inches.
5. What about the weight? The average weight of a polar bear ranges between 351 kilograms and 544 kilograms (775 lbs. and 1,200 lbs.). However, the heaviest one on record till date is the same one that was the tallest while standing on its hind legs. It weighed a whopping 2,209 lbs. That translates into 1,000 kilograms.
Polar Bear Facts: 6-10 | Physical Characteristics
6. Interestingly, the weight we mentioned above in #5 is that of male adults. Female adults are not as heavy as that of males. Female adult polar bears have an average weight of 50 kilograms to 295 kilograms (330 lbs. to 650 lbs.).
7. Polar bears (as opposed to other bears) have a body build that’s far more elongated. Their nose and skull are also longer. They have stocky legs, small tail and small ears. Because they live icy Arctic regions, their feet have also adapted accordingly.
8. In adult polar bears, the feet may be 30 centimeters across. Such large feet are designed for weight/load distribution when these large animals walk on ice sheets that are thin. Such wide feet also help in propulsion when they swim.
9. Looking at the paws of polar bears one can find small and soft dermal bumps in order to provide traction when they walk on ice. Also, their claws are stocky and short which allows them to properly grip ice and heavy prey.
10. The claws of polar bears are scooped deeply on the underside. This is probably because they need to dig into ice pretty often. Such claws assist in digging.
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.
Polar Bear Facts: 21-25 | Swimming, Walking and Sprinting
21. Polar bears are excellent swimmers and are capable of swimming for days without break. It one particular case, a polar bear was spotted swimming for 9 days at a stretch covering a distance of 687 kilometers across frigid Bering Sea.
22. After swimming for so long, the bear reached the ice far from land. From there, it traveled another 1,800 kilometers. However, for this long journey she had to pay a heavy price.
23. Yes, the polar bear in question was a female and she lost 22 kilos of body mass in addition to losing her yearling cub.
24. Polar bears are such good swimmers because of the buoyancy they get out of their body fat and their large forepaws provide propulsion, allowing them to attain a speed of up to 10 km per hour.
25. When it comes to walking, they have what is known as lumbering gait where the maintain 5.6 km per hour of average speed. They can reach the speed of 40 km per hour when the sprint.
Polar Bear Facts: 26-30 | Behavioral Traits
26. Polar bears are not at all territorial. They live in the vast wilderness of the Arctic and travel at free will, going wherever they want to.
27. Because they are carnivores, it is often assumed that they are really aggressive but that’s not the case in normal conditions. They will avoid a direct confrontation and run away.
28. Very hungry polar bears however are known for attacking humans, killing them and eating them. Satiated polar bears on the other hand will rarely attack humans unless they are provoked.
29. Adult polar bears are known to be solitary creatures. However, it is not unusual to spot them playing or resting in embrace for hours at a stretch. Also, they are known to be quiet animals but they can be seen communicating using vocalizations and sounds. They may also indulge in chemical communication, leaving behind scents in their tracks so that they can be traced by other bears.
30. When it comes to vocal communications, they use a number of vocalizations. These include the following:
- Roars, grows and hisses – showing aggression.
- Snorts, chuffs and huffs – when they are nervous.
- Cubs can hum when they are nursing.
- Bleats – subadults and cubs in distress.
- Chuffs and moans – females communicating with their young ones.
That completes our 30 polar bear facts for this article. However, we are not yet done. We need to go a long distance as there’s much to discuss about their dietary habits, their hunting skills and their reproduction. We will cover these topics in our next article.