Often, when you encounter sightings of the magnificent Polar Bear on one of the specialized bear tours, it will be while they are in the water. What it is that draws them to spend so much time in the water and how did they adapt to being such excellent swimmers?
Meaning From The Scientific Name
Their scientific name is Ursus Maritimus, which translates literally to “sea bear”, a very apt moniker when you consider that these mammals have been known to swim for over 60 miles at a time, at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour.
Because of their endurance and the ability to swim for several hours with great proficiency, they are part of the group known as marine mammals. When you catch sight of them on bear tours in their natural habitat, you will get the opportunity to appreciate just how large these animals are, yet how agile they are when in the water.
Efficiency Of Nature
To enable them to swim with such grace and efficiency, their large front paws are the key to their aquatic skills. The animal uses them to propel its huge body through the water, while their back legs and feet are used as rudders for steering.
They are also very good divers, a trait you may see in splendid action on bear tours if you’re lucky. When they immerse in water their nostrils close to stopping water flowing in, and they can dive down to around 15 feet when they are hunting their prey or evading ice floes. They can stay underwater for up to two minutes.
How Are They Physically Adapted to Swim?
These fascinating creatures don’t only swim to hunt – they sometimes just like to get in the water to cool down on warm days or after they have been very active. They are so well insulated that they do actually have a tendency to overheat, so the sight of a Polar Bear relaxing in the cooling waters is quite a common sight. Their waterproof fur expels the water and ice that accumulates as soon as they climb back on to land and give a good shake. The thick layer of blubber that sits under their skin keeps them warm when swimming in perishing temperatures of down to -37°C.
For those who travel to the Polar region on bear tours, observing these incredible animals is a fascinating insight into how the creatures of our natural world adapt to suit their environment.