Arctic polar bears are feared for their massive size, keen claws, and vicious bite. They are willing to dive into the water if they can’t find meals by bounding across the snow!
Are they adept swimmers, though? Indeed! Polar bears are actually stronger swimmers than most other species, including us. They have amazing endurance and thrive in icy waters.
Curious? These nine statistics show how proficient polar bear swimmers are.
1. Polar Bears Are Marine Animals
The only bears in the world that are regarded as aquatic animals are polar bears. They are unique in that they rely on sea ice to survive. While some bear species, such as brown bears, can live in a variety of habitats, polar bears require regular access to freezing water.
Because polar bears can tolerate warm conditions if the freezing pool criteria is met, you might find them at a zoo in the desert or a tropical park. Climate-controlled enclosures are typically constructed by zoos as well.
2. Polar Bears’ Fat Keeps Them Warm
When taking temperatures in the Arctic Ocean, scientists frequently record values that are below freezing. Polar bears may submerge themselves in this sub-zero water because of their gigantic size. Their coating of fat can reach a thickness of 4.49 inches.
In chilly water, the extra blubber keeps them warm. Polar bears have two layers of fur on land to aid with insulation. Once wet, the coat’s insulating properties diminish somewhat.
3. Polar Bears Can See Underwater
Polar bears have underwater vision. The nictitating membrane, a third eyelid, covers their eyes to protect them. It’s an important hunting ability because, according to studies, polar bears can see 15 feet underwater.
4. Polar Bears Are Fast Swimmers
Polar bears are still deadly underwater, sadly for seals. Their swimming speed of 6.2 mph (10 kph) allows them to capture escaping prey. Their bodies are nimble and swift because of the abundant assistance of nature.
With each swipe of their front paws, polar bears generate push, and their powerful hind legs help them navigate through the water.
5. Polar Bears Can Swim For Days at a Time
A polar bear’s swimming endurance can last for days. An adult female swimmer was once observed by researchers for nine days in a row. Still, it was an arduous voyage. She lost her cub, who was too frail for the long journey, and by the time she arrived at her destination, she weighed 22% less than when she left.
A polar bear’s longer swims usually take several hours.
6. Climate Change is Forcing Polar Bears to Swim Further
Some polar sea ice persists throughout the summer when it is plentiful. Polar bears don’t have to swim very far under these circumstances to locate another patch of ice.
The scene is changing due to climate change. The nine days the female polar bear spent swimming was probably caused by the ice melting from rising temperatures. Polar bears that swim have fewer places to rest when there is less ice.
Because of their habitat, polar bears are currently listed as an endangered species.
7. Polar Bears Can Hold Their Breath for Minutes
Because they can hold their breath underwater for minutes, polar bears are adept swimmers. When they are diving for prey that won’t surface, it becomes helpful.
Polar bears can swim faster than humans—6.2 mph, to be exact. With polar bear prey animals, however, such is not the case. The polar bear cannot rely on a water race to win because many are far quicker.
They can increase their chances of success in the hunt by diving into the water with intent and catching prey off guard. Three minutes and ten seconds was the record for the longest polar bear dive ever recorded!
8. Polar Bears Have Webbed Paws
Polar bears’ delicately webbed paws are yet another undiscovered swimming aid. Their paws become thick paddles that let them move across the water thanks to the webbing.
Rather than being covered in webbing, its hind paws have long, curved claws. The polar bear’s claws allowed it to grasp seals and other slick surfaces like ice.
9. Polar Bears Have Small Ears
Their ears are arguably the least obvious adaptation that helps polar bears swim. These flatten underwater and are smaller than the ears of most bears. These might not appear like defenses, but they aid in preventing water from getting in the bear’s ears that could freeze later. Polar bears are also able to reduce heat loss thanks to the modest size of their ears.