What Are the Adaptations of Polar Bears?

Two adaptations of the polar bear are its white fur and its black skin. The fur, which is actually transparent, reflects sunlight and camouflages the bear as it makes its way along ice floes in the arctic. The bear's black skin absorbs sunlight and keeps it warm.

Other adaptations of the polar bear are its huge, broad and somewhat webbed paws, which help it to be an excellent swimmer, and the fur on the soles of all four feet. It also has short, sharp claws. The claws and fur allow the bear to walk over ice and snow without slipping. The bear also has powerful legs to allow it to walk and run for many miles in search of prey.

Polar bears also have sensitive lips and whiskers that allow them to investigate their world. They have a good sense of smell that allows them to find prey. Polar bears have also developed clever hunting techniques that allow them to capture seals, their favorite prey. In one technique called still hunting, the bear finds a seal's air hole in the ice and simply waits for the seal to come up for a breath. The bear may also swim underneath the ice where the seal has hauled out, emerge through its air hole and capture it.

Female polar bears experience delayed implantation of a fertilized egg. This allows the cubs to be born during the winter months, while their mother is hibernating and safe in a den.

Unlike related bears like the Kodiak bear, the polar bear is truly carnivorous and not an omnivore. Though it eats plant material when it must, this gives it little nutrition. The harsh conditions of the Arctic require that polar bears eat animal protein and fat. The many sharp teeth of the polar bear are also adapted to its diet.