Polar Bear Observed to Swim Continuously for 9 Days Over 426 Miles

polar bear swimming to ice photo

Photo: Wikipedia, CC
Give that Bear a Gold Medal in Endurance Swimming
We've known for a while that the increasing melting of the Arctic sea ice cover during the summer was posing big problems to polar bears, forcing some to swim for extended distances, using up their precious reserves of energy and reducing their chances of surviving harsh winters and reproducing. A group of scientists has tracked on bear who swam continuously for 9 days over 426 miles of almost freezing water!
arctic summer ice melt 2008 image

image: Goddard Space Flight Center
n their findings, published in Polar Biology, researchers from the US Geological Survey reveal the first evidence of long distance swimming by polar bears (Ursus maritimus).

"This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C," says research zoologist George M. Durner.

"We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold. It is truly an amazing feat." (source)

Polar bears had been observed in open water previously, but this is the first time that and entire aquatic journey has been tracked.

polar bears photo

Photo: Wikipedia, CC

Unfortunately, these kinds of extreme swims, even when they aren't fatal in themselves, can impose large costs on the bears. The specific female polar bear that was tracked by the scientists lost 22% of her body fat in two months and her yearling cub.

See also: Starving Polar Bears Turning to Cannibalism
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