The question ‘What color are polar bears?’ seems to have a pretty simple answer. The first and perhaps only answer you’ll receive is ‘white.’ And the vast majority of polar bears do indeed have white fur, but what about what lies underneath? What color is polar bear skin?
If you’ve ever felt curious enough to find out more about this topic or have even taken a peek at a polar bear’s skin for yourself, you’ve probably come across something quite unexpected. Mother Nature can be pretty surprising sometimes, allowing us to marvel at the variety and beauty of her creations.
Polar Bear Fur Characteristics
Before we delve deeper into polar bear skin color composition, let’s first look at some of the key characteristics that make up the outer furry layer of these magnificent animals. The specific properties of their coat aren’t arbitrary but have evolved to help them survive in their unique and demanding environment.
As they are at the top of the Arctic food chain, polar bears have very few predators to worry about. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to be on the lookout for danger. Their main predators are humans, who hunt them for fur, meat, and organs. To avoid becoming someone’s trophy, they must blend in with their surroundings.
The color of a polar bear’s fur is primarily determined by the amount of light available in its environment. The greater the illumination, the whiter the fur appears. Their fur takes on a yellowish hue in areas with less light and during the winter when the sun is only out for a few hours each day.
This color change helps them blend in with their surroundings and makes it more difficult for would-be hunters to spot them. It’s a clever adaptation that has undoubtedly saved many polar bears from being killed.
It also helps keep them camouflaged when hunting or looking for a water source. Being one of the strongest bear species, polar bears have little to fear from other animals. They’ll often prey on ringed and bearded seals, which they’ll hunt by waiting at a hole in the ice or stalking them from the water’s edge.
Given the sub-zero temperatures that polar bears have to endure daily, it’s no surprise that their fur is also notably thick and dense to keep them warm and protected. In fact, adult polar bears may even have two layers of fur to keep them extra warm.
The outer layer is composed of long, coarse guard hairs that are shed annually. Underneath this is a shorter, denser layer of fur known as the undercoat. This inner layer provides most of the insulation, trapping heat close to the body and helping keep the polar bear warm.
Their fur composition can reflect harmful UV rays, further protecting them from the harsh conditions of their environment. Since they spend so much time outdoors, this is an essential adaptation that helps keep them healthy and free of skin damage.
Research even shows that their insulating fur expertly hides heat signatures on infrared cameras, making it more difficult for us to spot them from a distance.
Polar bears have several physical adaptations that help them survive in their environment, but their fur also serves an important protective function. Not only does it keep them warm and insulated, but it also helps protect them from cuts and scrapes.
The fur is rough and durable, resisting tearing and matting even when wet. This is mainly because each individual hair is composed of two parts—a hollow outer shaft and a thicker inner shaft. This double-layered structure gives the hair added strength and makes it less susceptible to damage.
As fluffy as they are and as much as we’d all like to try having bears as pets, it’s important to remember that polar bears are wild animals. They are uniquely adapted to their environment and are not suited for life in captivity. If you’re ever lucky enough to see one in the wild, enjoy the experience from a distance.
What Color Is Polar Bear Skin
Underneath the snow-white fur of a polar bear is black skin. This may seem like a strange adaptation, but it serves an essential purpose. This particular color helps absorb the sun’s heat, which is vital for keeping the bear warm in the frigid climate and regulating its body temperature.
So, why isn’t the skin visible? Well, that’s because of the guard hairs. These longer, coarser hairs that make up the upper layer of the fur are transparent, allowing the black skin beneath to show through and absorb the heat from the sun.
Cubs are born with brownish-pink skin and lighter fur, but as they grow older, their skin darkens, and the fur lightens until they reach adulthood. At this point, the fur is usually pure white with patches of yellow or cream around the head, neck (or any other area when they get dirty).
While most of us would say that polar bears are white, that is only half true.
Sure, they appear white on the surface, but what color is the polar bear’s skin? The answer is—black. It’s a curiosity that gives polar bears a unique appearance and makes them very fascinating to observe and learn about.