The giant polar bear is a predatory carnivorous mammal. It was found in ancient times, in the northern coastal regions, it was a very large animal. At a chance meeting, he was dangerous. The modern polar bear is a predatory mammal from the bear family. It is a species of brown bear and a direct descendant of a giant prehistoric animal. It remains the largest of the carnivorous predators on the planet.
Origin of the species and description
The giant polar bear was a long-extinct subspecies of these animals. These predatory mammals were distinguished by their enormous size (up to 4 m) and heavy weight (up to 1 ton). The researchers found only a few fragments of this prehistoric animal. His bones were discovered in the last century in England. The extinction of the species presumably occurred because at the end of the ice age there was not enough food in the conditions of glaciation.
It is believed that the animal was an intermediate link between the usual white and brown species of modern bears. Scientists assumed that more than 100 centuries ago, a white species of albino animal descended from an ordinary brown bear. But recently it has been proven and scientifically substantiated that the white variety of individuals appeared due to the crossing of a giant and brown subspecies.
In the populations of the white variety, up to 10% of the genetics of the giant and 2% of the brown bear were found. This is direct evidence of mixing views.
Appearance and Features
The giant polar bear was a very large animal, strong and hardy. He had an impressive size and great physical strength. When meeting, the beast could be very dangerous, especially during the rut or nursing of cubs. Usually, the body length of an average male individual reached 3.5 m, and the weight was at least a ton. Large males weighed more than 500 kg and had a body length of at least 3 m. Bears were much smaller (200–300 kg, 1.6–2.5 m). The height of the animal to the withers reached 1.7 m.
The polar bear today has a long neck and a small flat head. The coat color can be not only white, but with a white-yellowish tinge, especially in the warm season.
The fur has a hollow structure, which allows the animal not to freeze in the most severe frosts and not get wet in ice water. This hairline looks dark in the photo. If the animal is in a warm climate or in a zoo for a long time, its coat may acquire a greenish tint, but this is not an indicator of any disease.
The powerful soles of the paws of the giant beast were lined with hard, elastic wool, which allowed it to easily move along the slippery ice surface and not freeze in the cold northern climate. A feature of the device of the paws of the polar bear is the membrane between the fingers. This allows him to develop high speed in the water and have good maneuverability, despite the external heaviness and clumsiness. The huge claws of the beast could easily hold small or large prey.
The bone system of this large animal had a powerful thickened structure, capable of withstanding great physical exertion and difficult conditions of the northern climate. The giant polar bear is the largest carnivorous mammal that has ever lived on earth.
Where did the giant polar bear live?
Animal habitat extended:
- in the northern latitudes;
- to modern Newfoundland;
- through the arctic deserts to the tundra.
- Giant white bears were found on Svalbard;
- The largest individuals lived on the coast of the Bering Sea.
On the territory of modern Russia, the habitat zone of the giant polar bear was the northern coast of the Chukchi Sea, as well as the Arctic and Bering Seas.
What did the giant polar bear eat?
The habitat of the polar giant polar bear, as well as the modern descendant, was landfast sea ice and drifting ice floes. Here the animals built their lairs, brought out their cubs and caught prey, which was fish, walruses, ringed seals, sea hares. The carnivorous predatory animal still catches living creatures in an unusual way.
As in ancient times, the beast simply hides in a shelter near the hole and patiently watches for its prey. As soon as a small animal looks out of the ice hole, the bear quickly stuns it with a powerful paw and pulls it out of the water to the surface. Bears catch walruses right on land, where they immediately eat the skin and fat. Bears eat the meat of their prey very rarely, only in very hungry times.
Also, in the hungry season, with a strong lack of food, bears can eat dead fish, carrion, algae. Sometimes they do not disdain garbage dumps near the polar villages or they can destroy the food warehouse, stealing all the provisions from the polar explorers.
Character and lifestyle features
In our time, as in ancient times, the behavior of bears has not changed much. Predatory animals in search of food can roam throughout the region, depending on the time of year. In summer they follow the ice closer to the north pole as fish and seals follow the drifting ice.
In winter, bears travel across the mainland to a depth of up to 70 km, where they lie in a den to breed and feed their offspring. Pregnant female bears usually hibernate for 3-4 months. Males do not sleep for long, about a month, because in winter they are engaged in hunting and foraging, storing up subcutaneous fat for the hungry period.
The characteristic behavior of males and females depends on the time of year. In the warm period, when there is an abundance of food around, the animals behave peacefully and do not attack people or livestock. During the harsh Arctic winter, bears are forced to fight for their survival, so they can be very aggressive and dangerous to people or pets.
Females with cubs are the most dangerous if they meet unexpectedly. They have an instinct to preserve offspring and they immediately attack anyone who dares to approach the den with cubs. All polar bears look rather bulky, clumsy and clumsy. In fact, the animals are very fast and agile both in water and on land.
Features of polar bears:
- a thick layer of subcutaneous fat protects against frost;
- dense wool keeps well from freezing in an ice font;
- white color of wool is a good disguise.
The animal is almost impossible to notice on a white background of ice or snow. Thanks to its excellent sense of smell and hearing, the giant ancient predator could smell its prey several hundred meters away. On water, the beast could travel great distances and reach speeds of up to 6 km/h. This helped him catch any, even very agile prey. With the help of a GPS beacon, a case of a polar bear moving at a high speed over more than 600 km was recorded. in just a few days.
Predatory individuals, such as giant polar bears, could attack large animals such as seals, today they are also very dangerous. Therefore, in areas of mass habitat of polar bears, you need to be extremely careful and move very carefully. It is necessary to carefully inspect the surroundings so as not to fall into the den of a she-bear or a hungry male rod.
Social structure and reproduction
Animals lived alone , they did not have a herd principle. Single males are quite peaceful towards each other, but during the mating season there have always been aggressive skirmishes for the possession of a female. Adult animals could attack little cubs and devour them during the hungry season.
The rut of males took place in spring and early summer: from March to June. The female was usually achieved by several competitors, but the victory always went to the strongest and most worthy. Pregnant females dug their lair in the coastal zone, where in a warm and protected from prying eyes place they brought offspring – 2 or 3 bear cubs.
Giant polar bears were not very prolific. This subspecies of predators had a very low breeding potential. The female gave birth every 2-3 years, but not earlier than after 5-8 years. The she-bear lay down in the den in the middle of autumn, in the latent stage of pregnancy, which lasted up to 250 days. The offspring appeared at the end of winter, but the female remained in hibernation until April. Up to several cubs were usually born in a litter. Throughout her life, the female fed no more than 15 babies.
A newborn baby had a weight of 450 to 700 grams. After the appearance of the offspring, the mother did not leave the den for 3 months, then the family left their rookery and began to travel throughout the Arctic. Up to 1.5 years, the female completely fed her offspring with her milk and raised her children, teaching them the basics of winter hunting and ice fishing.
Natural enemies of the giant polar bear
The huge and strong animal had no equal in its natural habitat. A seal or killer whale could attack a sick or wounded animal. Wolves or even arctic foxes often attacked small cubs left without maternal protection.
In our time, the main enemy of the offspring of a giant polar bear are poachers who, despite the ban, shoot these animals for the sake of a beautiful skin and tasty bear meat .
Population and species status
In harsh northern conditions, giant polar bears lived on average up to 30 years, today their descendants in captivity can live more than 40 years. When crossing white males with brown females, hybrids or polar grizzlies are obtained. These animals have the strength and endurance of polar bears, and the intelligence and mobility of brown animals.
The population of animals of the bear family today totals about 25 thousand individuals worldwide, in Russia – up to 7 thousand. In the near future, it is planned to conduct a planned census of polar bears in the Russian Federation in order to fully record and preserve their total number.
Protection of polar bears
Northerners and locals hunt polar bears, getting a beautiful skin and eating meat for food. In the Russian Federation, bear hunting is prohibited, and in the USA, Canada and Greenland it is limited. There are restrictive quotas for the prey of the polar bear, which allow you to regulate the growth of the population, but prevent its complete destruction.
Since the population of the polar bear is listed in the International Red Book and in the Red Book of Russia, it is protected by law. With rather slow reproduction and high mortality of young animals, a very slow increase in the number of these animals occurs. Therefore, the hunting of polar bears is prohibited in Russia.
There is a reserve on Wrangel Island, where an active growth of the population is observed. In 2016, the population of polar bears in the Russian Federation numbered more than 6 thousand individuals.
The giant polar bear has lived on our planet since ancient times. Today, the governments of many countries are taking various measures to preserve and grow the bear population. One can hope that these huge animals will actively breed throughout the northern region and will not disappear, like their ancestors from the face of the earth, leaving only a few prehistoric remains.