Monday, February 13, 2006

Polar Bears, Rulers of the Arctic North

The polar bears (Thalarctos maritimus) live in the Arctic regions of the north near open water where they can find their main source of food which are seals. These bears are huge with adults at 7 to 8 ½ feet tall and up to 1,600 pounds. Polar bears are white to creamy white all year round which gives them excellent camouflage against the Arctic snow when hunting. Along with the Arctic fox, the polar bear is the most northerly located land mammal on earth.

Unlike other species of bears, polar bears have longer necks and smaller heads making them appear more streamlined. Despite their large sizes, they are incredibly fast being able to run up to 25 miles per hour. At speeds like this, a polar bear can outrun a reindeer. They are also excellent swimmers being able to swim at about 3 miles per hour but for considerable distances.

During winters, they spend most of their time on the ice floes hunting seals. Polar bears have rough, leathery pads on the bottoms of their feet to maintain footholds on slippery ice surfaces. Their adaptation to the cold Arctic waters is even more impressive. Their thick coats of fur traps a deep layer of insulating air around their bodies. An inner layer of fur is so compact that it is almost impossible to wet it. An outer layer of long guard hairs mat together in the water which forms another layer over the inner layer. After a polar bear leaves the water, it simply shakes its body which results in most of the water being thrown right off leaving the bear almost dry. These protective layers of fur ensure that the polar bear’s skin is kept dry most of the time, even while in the Arctic waters.


[to read the rest of this article and to view nice photos of polar bears, see Polar Bears, Rulers of the Arctic North]


polar bears

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