Friday, January 25, 2013

23-Fact Tuesday: The Polar Bear!

Everyone loves polar bears, so today, for the birthday post of Brooke Harrower, we are going to be taking a 23-Fact Tuesday look at them!  Allons-y!

1.  Despite the fact that the polar bear can be quite a fierce animal, it can also be very playful and gentle.  For proof, click HERE to see a very cute video of polar bears playing with sled dogs!

2.  A group of polar bears is called a celebration.

3.  In an attempt to safely film polar bears up close and personal without disturbing them, one production company resorted to an interesting array of spy cameras.  To see an awesome video of the polar bears playing with the spy cameras, click HERE.

4.  As we saw in the previous video clip, the polar bear is quite the curious animal.  It has to be, to survive in such harsh conditions!  The polar bear is also a lot smarter than many other bears, as can be seen in a comparison of a few different bear brains, below!  Look at how much larger (comparatively) the brain of the polar bear is than that of the American black bear!  Also keep in mind that more wrinkles=a greater surface area=a smarter animal!

5.  Unlike the color of its fur, the skin of the polar bear is actually jet black!

6.  Despite the fact that they are often erroneously pictured together, it is almost entirely impossible for penguins and polar bears to meet naturally in the wild, as no penguins ever really make it past the Equator, with the Gal√°pagos penguin living the furthest north, right on the Equator!  For more information on the subject (as well as some really funny stories) click on the link HERE, to check out a page on the awesome blog March of the Fossil Penguins.

7.  As you can see in the video clip HERE, filming the polar bears for the excellent BBC series Planet Earth could be quite a challenge (see the full post HERE), especially when they come knocking at your door!

8.  The polar bear is the largest extant (still living, opposite of extinct) mammalian carnivore.  The males can grow up to a whopping 1,500 pounds! 

9.  It occurs to me as I eat this delicious cherry popsicle that the polar bear must have some sort of special evolutionary adaptation to prevent brain freeze as it consumes a cold and frozen meal.  Research should be done into this.

10.  Polar bears, after their emergence from their dens following the harsh Arctic winters, have been observed sledding down the hills on which the dens are associated.  Some scientists believe that this action is solely intended to clean the fur, but many others (myself included) believe that it is probably more for fun!  Check out the video HERE.

11.  The polar bear is native to only five countries.  These are Russia, Denmark owned Greenland, Norway owned Svalbard, Alaska, and Canada.

12.  The polar bear is a descendant of the grizzly bear, and was once thought to have diverged from the grizzly possibly only even around 70-100,000 years ago.  Others are more conservative in their estimations, as DNA analysis on one particular fossil specimen indicates that the polar bear diverged from the grizzly bear around 160,000 years ago.  It now seems more likely that the age of divergence of was much earlier in time than even 100,000 years ago, and polar bear fossils dating from earlier than that (round 115,000 years ago) have actually been discovered.
A picture of one of the grizzly bears at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo doing what the zookeepers call the "Yoga Bear."  This was from the behind the scenes experience that my dad, grandma and grandpa, my friend Masaki and I got to do with Kelley Parker a few months back!  Photo Credit: Masaki Kleinkopf.
Another picture of one of the grizzly bears at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo doing what the zookeepers call the "Yoga Bear."  This was from the behind the scenes experience that my dad, grandma and grandpa, my friend Masaki and I got to do with Kelley Parker a few months back!  Photo Credit: Masaki Kleinkopf.
13.  The oldest polar bear fossil known to science, the lower jaw of a male, was discovered in 2004.  It's age is thought to be between around 110,000 and 130,000 years old. 

14.  The scientific name for the polar bear, Ursus maritimus is "sumitiram susru" spelled backwards.  This means absolutely nothing and is really not that exciting, unless you are me and think it's funny and clever to spell things backwards and make stupid jokes about it.

15.  Algae, while not threatening to a polar bear in any significant way, can be extremely hard to wash out of the bears fur.  So therefore, in the summer of 2008 when three bears at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Japan got a bunch of algae stuck in their fur, they were green for the entire summer!  True story!

16.  The polar bear is a fantastic swimmer, aided by its streamlined body and skull as well as its partially webbed feet, and have been spotted swimming strongly in open waters as much as 200 miles from the shore!

17.  The polar bear will consume a wide variety of foods, including everything from seals to walrus, beluga whales to bowhead whale carcasses, birds, and even kelp!

18.  The polar bear is labeled as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN, a position which may deteriorate in years to come with the further melting of the ice caps.

19.  Hybrids of the polar bear and the grizzly bear, sometimes called grolars, have been known to occur both in the wild and in captivity, a further testament to the close genetic relationship between the two bears.

20.  Baby polar bears are possibly some of the cutest animals on the planet, as can be evidenced by the picture below of baby Anori from Germany's Wuppertal Zoo.

21.  Humans are the only animal that hunt polar bears.

22.  So well protected against the cold is the polar bear that they can quickly overheat, even when the temperature is below zero!  In order to combat this, the polar bear will try to avoid running and will rest for many many hours at a time.  Maybe my cat's a polar bear.

23.  Polar bears, like myself when Windows Movie Maker refuses to work, have actually been observed by scientists to throw tantrums when they fail to catch their prey!  The bears have been observed growling disappointedly, kicking piles of snow, and even throwing ice chunks!

Happy birthday Brooke, hope you enjoy!  And remember, if you have a birthday coming up, just email me the date at with the date and your favorite animal, and I will do my best to get a post in!

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