They are soft, they are round and are total fur balls. Yes, we are talking about polar bears. Icons of the Arctic, polar bears have many unusual characteristics. So today, on International Polar Bear Day, we look at some little-known facts about these magnificent creatures. Test your knowledge and see how many of these you already know!
Canada is home to approximately 60% of the world’s total polar bear population. Their habitat in Canada extends from James Bay in the south to Ellesmere Island in the north, and east to west from Labrador to the Alaskan border.
Yes, their skin is actually black. So what makes them appear white to us? The answer lies in their fur! Polar bear fur is transparent, with a hollow core that reflects and refracts light from the sun and off the snow. Their fur acts as a warm blanket by reflecting heat from the sun down the hair shaft so that it can be absorbed by their skin.
Although they spend a lot of time on land, they are perfectly comfortable in the ocean too. Their life revolves around the ocean, and with the help of their snout, head, and long body they can efficiently swim in icy water. Hence, polar bears are classified as marine mammals just like whales, seals, and dolphins.
Fun Fact: Do you know that the scientific name of polar bear is Ursus Maritimus meaning “sea bear”?
If you are a swimming champion and decide to compete with a polar bear, chances are that you might still lose! Polar bears are known for having the ability to swim constantly for days; a potential survival skill needed in an Arctic environment where the summer sea ice is vanishing. They can swim at an average speed of up to around 10 kmph.
Fun Fact: A study published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology tracked 52 female polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea off Alaska between 2004 and 2009. Out of the 52, around 50 bears recorded ultra-marathon swims with an average distance of 154.5 km.
While polar bears usually give birth to around one to three cubs, they most commonly give birth to twins. Given the harsh and unforgiving conditions in which they survive, their evolutionary adaptation increases the likelihood of at least one or two cubs to survive into adulthood.
Polar bears simply love to take frequent snow baths. For instance, after enjoying a hefty meal, when their coats get dirty, they roll and rub their bodies across the snow to clean their fur. One of the major reasons for taking frequent baths is to keep their fur clean and dry, since matted, dirty, and wet fur results in poor insulation.
Polar bear paws are expertly designed for traversing the sliding ice scapes. Their paws measure up to 30 centimetres, which helps them tread even on thin ice. If the ice is too thin, they extend their legs far apart and lower their bodies to distribute their weight.
Polar bears are dependent on sea ice to catch seals. This is because seals are the only food with a high enough fat content and enough calories to keep the bears healthy. Hence their hunting and eating pattern solely depends on sea ice. You may wonder why polar bears won’t swim and hunt seals? That’s because catching a seal in open water is extremely challenging and unlikely. They can hunt them only when the seals come over onto the sea ice.
Do you know any such uncommon facts about polar bears and other animals? Do tell us in the comments below.
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Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself. Drop in a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you liked her stories, have something nice to say, or if you have compelling ideas to share!
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