10×14 watercolor enhanced colored pencil. Original available.
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The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a bear native to the Arctic. Polar bears and Kodiak bears are the world’s largest land carnivores, with most adult males weighing 300-600 kg (660-1320 lb); adult females are about half the size of males. Its fur is hollow and translucent, but usually appears as white or cream colored, thus providing the animal with effective camouflage. Its skin is actually black in color. Its thick blubber and fur insulate it against the cold. The bear has a short tail and small ears that help reduce heat loss, as well as a relatively small head and long, tapered body to streamline it for swimming.
A semi-aquatic marine mammal, the polar bear has adapted for life on a combination of land, sea, and ice, and is the apex predator within its range. It feeds mainly on seals, young walruses, and whales, although it will eat anything it can kill. It is the bear species most likely to prey on humans.
The polar bear is a vulnerable species at high risk of extinction. Scientists and climatologists believe that the projected decreases in the polar sea ice due to global warming will reduce their population by two thirds by mid-century. Local long-term studies show that 7 out of 19 subpopulations are declining or already severely reduced. In the USA, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to up-list the legal conservation status of polar bears to threatened species in 2005. This petition is still under review.
Size and weight Polar bears rank with the Kodiak bear as among the largest living land carnivores, and male polar bears may weigh twice as much as a Siberian tiger. Most adult males weigh 300–600 kg (660–1320 lb) and measure 2.4–3.0 m (7.9–10.0 ft) in length. When standing upright, an adult male can stand up to 3.35 m (11.5 ft). That is about as tall as an elephant. Adult females are roughly half the size of males and normally weigh 150–300 kg (330–660 lb), measuring 1.9–2.1 m (6.25–7 ft). The great difference in body size makes the polar bear the second most sexually dimorphic of mammals, following the eared seals.10 At birth, cubs weigh only 600–700 g or about a pound and a half. The largest polar bear on record was a huge male, allegedly weighing 1002 kg (2200 lb) shot at Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska in 1960.
Fur and skin A Polar Bear resting.A polar bear’s fur is white (individual hairs are translucent, like the water droplets that make up a cloud) and provides good camouflage and insulation. It may yellow with age. Stiff hairs on the pads of its paws provide insulation and traction on the ice.
Polar bears gradually molt their hair from May to August; however, unlike other Arctic mammals, polar bears do not shed their coat for a darker shade to camouflage themselves in the summer habitat. It was once conjectured that the hollow guard hairs of a polar bear coat acted as fiber-optic tubes to conduct light to its black skin, where it could be absorbed – a theory disproved by recent studies. The thick undercoat does, however, insulate the bears: they overheat at temperatures above 10 °C (50 °F), and are nearly invisible under infrared photography; only their breath and muzzles can be easily seen.14 When kept in captivity in warm, humid conditions, it is not unknown for the fur to turn a pale shade of green. This is due to algae growing inside the guard hairs — in unusually warm conditions, the hollow tubes provide an excellent home for algae. Whilst the algae is harmless to the bears, it is often a worry to the zoos housing them, and affected animals are sometimes washed in a salt solution, or mild peroxide bleach to make the fur white again.
The guard hair is 5-15 cm over most of the body of polar bears. However, in the forelegs, males have significantly longer, increasing in length until 14 years of age. The ornamental foreleg hair is suggested as a form of an attractive trait for females, likened to the lion mane. (information from Wikipedia)