Related topics: climate change ยท sea ice

Now endangered: The very act that protects wildlife

The Trump administration recently announced a proposal that would gut the Endangered Species Act. The news follows in the wake of a report from the United Nations earlier this year that more than 1 million plants and animals ...

A polar-bear-inspired material for heat insulation

For polar bears, the insulation provided by their fat, skin, and fur is a matter of survival in the frigid Arctic. For engineers, polar bear hair is a dream template for synthetic materials that might lock in heat just as ...

Judge restores Obama-era drilling ban in Arctic

President Donald Trump exceeded his authority when he reversed bans on offshore drilling in vast parts of the Arctic Ocean and dozens of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean, a U.S. judge said in a ruling that restored the Obama-era ...

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Polar bear

Ursus eogroenlandicus Ursus groenlandicus Ursus jenaensis Ursus labradorensis Ursus marinus Ursus polaris Ursus spitzbergensis Ursus ungavensis Thalarctos maritimus

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a bear native to the Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas. It is the world's largest carnivore species found on land. It's also the largest bear, together with the omnivore Kodiak bear which is approximately the same size. An adult male weighs around 400–680 kg (880–1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half that size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrow ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, it spends most of its time at sea, hence its name meaning "maritime bear", and can hunt consistently only from sea ice, spending much of the year on the frozen sea.

The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with 5 of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in decline. For decades, unrestricted hunting raised international concern for the future of the species; populations have rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arctic indigenous peoples, and the hunting of polar bears remains important in their cultures.

The IUCN now lists global warming as the most significant threat to the polar bear, primarily because the melting of its sea ice habitat reduces its ability to find sufficient food. The IUCN states, "If climatic trends continue polar bears may become extirpated from most of their range within 100 years." On May 14, 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

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