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Ten things you didn't know about polar bears

Added 10 May 2012
Ten things you didn't know about polar bears

One of our favourite animals and we never tire of seeing new pictures of them. Here we list ten things you probably didn't know about the world's largest bear.

1.    Polar bears live in the Arctic but not in the Antarctic. In fact, the word Arctic comes from the Greek word for ‘bear’.

2.    Polar bears are not left-handed. It’s a common mis-conception that polar bears use their left paw to do most things, but research has shown they use both equally.

3.    Polar bears have black skin and each hair is a hollow tube. The way ultraviolet light is absorbed gives the bears their white appearance.

4.    The staple food in a polar bear’s diet is seals, particularly ringed seals. In particular, they feed on the blubber which has a high calorific value. This helps them to maintain a thick layer of fat which serves both as insulation against the cold and an energy store for when food is scarce.

5.    Polar bears can swim up to six miles an hour – their partially webbed feet help them be proficient in the water. The polar bear is the only bear which is considered to be a marine mammal. The Latin name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus.

6.    Polar bears have a very strong sense of smell, which helps them when hunting. Some people say they cover their noses when hunting to avoid detection but this is largely thought to be untrue.

7.    Polar bears don’t hibernate. Females will spend more time in their dens when pregnant but generally these large animals keep going throughout the winter.

Polar-Bear8.    Polar bears are at the top of the food chain. They have no predators, apart from humans.

9.    The largest polar bear ever recorded weighed in at more than 2,200 kilograms. Male polar bears usually weigh up to 545 kilograms and females up to 300.

10.    Polar bears occasionally inter-breed with grizzly bears creating a hybrid bear known as a pizzly bear, prizzly bear or grolar bear. The existence of these hybrid bears in the wild was only confirmed in 2006 following DNA testing of a strange looking bear which had been shot.

Don't just read about these fascinating animals, take a look at our Arctic Expeditions and see if you can spot one for yourself.