SciSun: Formal Wear not Required

While watching some of the Holiday TV specials this year, we noticed that it’s common to see penguins and polar bears together. No matter what the story – “Santa and the Holiday Toys”; “Santa finds a new Reindeer”; “Santa Learns how to Snowboard” and so on, whenever animals are in the picture they are often penguins and polar bears. (And a lot of those stories feature Santa, too. We don’t know how he gets any toys made if he’s in so many TV specials). Well, we are just as big a fan of TV as you are, but we have to say putting penguins and polar bears together is just WRONG.

The two types of animals don’t live close together at all, in fact they live at opposite parts of the world!   Penguins (scientific order Sphenisciformes, family Spheniscidae) are found in the far Southern parts of the world – some are at the South Pole, but there are many different types of penguins and some live where there is very little snow at all. Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) live in the far North, although usually not actually at the North Pole – it’s too cold there even for the bears – but still they live where there is almost constant snow and ice. In fact, one very serious threat to Polar Bears now is that much of the ice they need is melting, and the bears are suffering. Scientists aren’t certain why the ice is melting, but some bears are being stranded without food and this is one of the most serious threats to Polar Bears that anyone can remember.

Polar Bears are the largest of the bears – even larger than the Brown (‘Grizzly’) Bear, and in fact are the largest carnivore on land!  The Polars are adapted to live in and around the cold water.  They can swim very well, they have large, strong thick paws for walking on snow, and they even dig houses out of the snow and ice when it’s time to have babies!

Despite what you might see on TV, the only place you will ever see penguins and polar bears near each other is at the zoo. And even then, the zoo staff don’t like to put them too close together because the polar bears always feel like they are being out-dressed by the penguins. Penguins seem to think they need to wear formal tuxedos everywhere, and this embarrasses the polar bears.

Man, am I getting tired of ONE flavor of snow cone. The yellow flavor doesn't count.

There are lots of great places to learn more about Polar Bears. Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-polar_bear.html

http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/marine/polarbea.php

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/great-white-bear/introduction/3348/

And don’t forget to check out your local library!

Posted December 26, 2010 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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