Why Do Polar Bears Have Large Paws?

polar-bears-large-paws Credit: Eric Danley/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Polar bears large paws are an adaptation feature, which allows polar bears to spread their weight on snow and ice more effectively. The paws act like snowshoes for balancing the significant weight polar bears have. Fur on the bottom of their paws also helps polar bears to grip the ice.

Polar bear paws are five toed and each paw can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. Soft papillae (dermal bumps), on the black pads of the feet create friction between the ice and their paws to prevent slipping. The long fur between their toes helps insulate the feet. In comparison to their feet their body size is actually small. Males grow between 772 and 1,433 pounds, and approximately 8 to 10 feet long. Females are 331 to 551 pounds, and 6 to 8 feet long. This gives polar bears a small surface area to volume ratio, according to the BBC. The body size ratio and small ears are another adaptation to reduce heat loss. A thick layer of fat (blubber) helps with insulating against the cold and for energy storage.

Another adaptation is shorter front limbs than back limbs to help distribute weight, and for running and swimming purposes. Their strong legs help them to catch up to prey, while their sharp teeth and claws help them catch and eat the prey. Their thick white fur is an insulator against the cold, but also camouflage against other predators including other polar bears. Polar bears are considered the largest carnivores on land.