How Can Polar Bears Stand Cold Water?
Despite arctic cold, the polar bear can swim in freezing water or walk about wringing wet, and still stay warm. The polar bear’s secret is a layer of fine, fluffy fur growing beneath the outer coat that traps insulating air around the bear’s body. Its woolly undercoat is so dense that the bear’s skin very rarely gets wet at all.
In addition, a thick layer of fat beneath the bear’s skin keeps its body heat from being lost to the cold weather, this thick layer of blubber ranging from one or two inches to four and a half inches sits just beneath the skin, covering all the bear’s muscles.
Blubber acts as a blanket to hold in the bear’s body heat. It can also be a source of stored up energy if the bear ever finds itself without an immediate food source. Even the soles of the polar bear’s feet are covered with fur, both for warmth and to enable it to walk on ice without slipping.
In fact polar bears have their coats and paws evolved to help make them good swimmers, their body shape has, too. A polar bear’s body is more elongated and streamlined for swimming – they’re missing the shoulder hump of the brown bear.
And, its neck is longer, which helps keep the polar bear’s head above water. Polar bears can swim approximately four to six miles per hour and have been spotted pretty far out to sea – as much as a few hundred miles from shore or even an ice floe.
Right now, estimates for world population of polar bears is somewhere around 25,000 to 27,000. But, because of global warming, scientists believe that number could be drastically different by 2050.
Some say the population could decrease by half and others argue it could be diminished by two-thirds. Global warming is causing areas of sea ice to shrink and even disappear. If the projected estimates are true, by 2050, there will be no polar bears living in the wild at all in the United States.