Climate Control – The Polar Bear Fact File

Today’s post is by Peter from the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum. We are not experts, but we are people with a passionate interest in the museum and its objects. We each bring our own insight into Manchester Museum and its collections.

For more about nature and climate control, please visit the curator blogs; Nature ManchesterPalaeo Manchester.


Here at Manchester Museum, we are all getting ready for the opening of the Climate Control exhibition on 11th May. The ideas around climate change are set to overflow the gallery spaces, and one of the key figures in our climate change story is the polar bear…

#MMClimateControl #DidYouKnow?

Available from:

The Polar Bear Fact File

Fact 1 – They can go days without eating

If a polar bear doesn’t eat for seven to ten days, it can slow its metabolism until it finds its next meal. They survive by using fat reserves from their diet.

Fact 2 – They have a razor sharp sense of smell

They can detect the smell of seals – their main food – from almost 1 km away!

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Fact 3 – They actually have black skin and colourless hair

Their thick, hollow hairs reflect light to give its white-looking coat. Not only does this act as great camouflage in the snow, but it also makes very effective insulation.

Fact 4 – They clean themselves by rolling in the snow

Polar bears like to keep themselves clean – probably because it helps the insulating properties of their fur. After feeding they’ll usually wash by taking a swim or rolling in the snow.

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Fact 5 – They can overheat

Despite their harsh environment polar bears can overheat. They’re superbly adapted to survive the Arctic temperatures (which can dip to -50° c), but the disadvantage is the risk of overheating – especially when running – or in “balmy” above-freezing summer temperatures.

Fact 6 – They are excellent swimmers (their Latin name means “sea bear”)

They can comfortably swim at around 6 mph, using their paws like oars while their hind legs are held flat like a rudder. They can swim for distances up to 100 miles at a time.

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Fact 7 – Paws, claws, ears and tails

Paws – Polar bears are perfect for roaming the Arctic. Their paws measure up to 12 inches across

Claws – Their claws are thick and curved, sharp and strong. Each can measure more than 2 inches long.

Ears and tails – Their ears are small and round and their tails are short and compact and this helps the bear conserve heat.

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Fact 8 – A polar bear cub weighs the same as an adult guinea pig

When first born a polar bear can fit inside an open hand. A cub stays with its mother for about 2 years. By the time it’s fully grown it can weigh over 500 kg.

Fact 9 – Some female polar bears deviate from the one room den

Female polar bears would rather build their dens in “old snow” from previous years rather than in freshly fallen snow. Some deviate from the one room den. They build dens with multiple rooms and even a ventilation system in the roof.

Fact 10 – Males can weigh as much as a dozen men

An adult male polar bear typically weighs between 775 and 1,200 pounds or the weight of about five to seven men. The largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing 2,209 pounds.

Credit: USFWS. Available from:

Come and see our polar bear and so much more when Climate Control opens on 11th May! And you can join in the conversation now at #MMClimateControl.

Peter Williams

To find out more fun facts about polar bears, have a look at these websites:

For more about climate control, please visit the curator blogs; Nature ManchesterPalaeo Manchester.

Read more posts by Peter:
Fifteen Children and a T-Rex!
Birds of Fancy

And checkout more animal stories form the Visitor Team:
The War Of The Snails, Round Three: Down But Not Out
A Plethora of Penguins
Kiwi and Egg Syndrome


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