Ocean Currents » predators http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:49:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 5 Things You Didn’t Already Know About Polar Bears http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/30/5-things-you-didnt-already-know-about-polar-bears/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/30/5-things-you-didnt-already-know-about-polar-bears/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2016 14:00:24 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13202

Polar bears are the best. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already a fan. Regardless of your affinity for these incredible animals, there’s always more to learn.

Today marks the beginning of Polar Bear Week, and to celebrate the occasion we’ve tracked down five new facts about Ursus maritimus. Ready to brush up on some trivia?

1.      Polar bears wag their heads when it’s time to play

Polar bears communicate through body language, and will often wag their heads from side to side to signal that it’s time to play. Playtime is ritualistic of mock fighting, and the perfect opportunity for polar bears to brush up on their best moves. To initiate play, polar bears will stand up on their hind legs with their front paws at their sides and chins lowered to their chest.

2.      Pregnant polar bears are the ultimate metabolizers

Polar bears have the unique ability to change their metabolic rate depending on the availability of food. This means they can devour enormous amounts of food when times are good, but can also go into a hibernation-like digestion state when there’s no food around. In fact, pregnant mothers in Hudson Bay have been found to fast for up to eight months! In Hudson Bay during the months of July through November, there often isn’t enough sea ice to hunt—forcing polar bears to conserve fat and energy.

Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to meet a hungry momma bear come winter.

3.      Polar bears aren’t actually white

Polar bears have a thick, under layer of fur which is transparent, not white! Much like the ice and snow, polar bear fur reflects light, causing them to appear white or yellow. Underneath their translucent fur, polar bears have black skin to better absorb the sun’s rays.

4.      Polar bears overheat—a lot

You would think that in their icy, arctic environment, polar bears spend most of their time shivering with cold! However, polar bears struggle more with overheating than they do fending off sub-zero temperatures. Since polar bears have evolved to thrive in a cold climate, they can overheat quickly when running—which explains why polar bears are notoriously leisurely walkers. A polar bear’s body temperature runs around 98.6º Fahrenheit, typical for most mammals, but their adaptation to cold weather means they have an unfortunate propensity to overheat.

5.      Polar bears are apex predators

Polar bears sit at the top of the Arctic food chain. As incredibly intelligent and opportunistic hunters, polar bears have even been found to feed on bigger mammals such as walruses, belugas and narwhals when given the chance.

Although polar bears have no natural predators in the animal kingdom, they still face major challenges. Today, polar bears confront increasing habitat loss as the Arctic continues to warm and sea ice continues to melt. In addition to climate change, pollutants from vessel traffic and potential offshore drilling threaten the species. Take some time this week to speak up for polar bears. Will you join us in asking the Obama Administration to keep the Arctic safe from risky drilling for the next five years?

For more insight into all things polar bear, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We’ll be sharing more fun facts and images throughout the week—and be sure to check out Polar Bears International for even more!





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Shark Attack Survivors Fight to Save Sharks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/15/shark-attack-survivors-fight-to-save-sharks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/15/shark-attack-survivors-fight-to-save-sharks/#comments Wed, 15 Aug 2012 21:10:42 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2317 tiger shark

Copyright Matthew D. Potenski 2010

Eight years ago, Debbie Salamone was attacked by a shark in the shallow waters of Florida’s Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The shark severed her Achilles tendon and led her to question her two-decade career as an environmental reporter.

After surgery and months of recovery, she came to realize that if she loved the ocean, she had to love everything in it – even sharks.

Sharks play an important role in the ocean ecosystem, Salamone explains. Removing these top predators – whether through overfishing or harmful practices like shark-finning – can have dire consequences that ripple throughout the ecosystem.

“I realized my unique position: Who could better speak up for sharks than myself and people like me?” she says.

Passionate defenders

After joining Pew Environment Group as a shark conservation advocate, Salamone reached out to shark attack survivors all over the world. She gathered a motley crew of willing advocates that include a World Cup soccer player from South Africa, a Wall Street businessman and a surfer from Hawaii.

Some are missing arms, others are missing legs – and one is missing an arm and a leg. But all of them are fiercely devoted to the cause: saving the animals that changed their lives forever.

“It gave us this incredible platform,” Salamone says. “If we can see the value in saving sharks, then surely everyone else can.”

The survivors are using that platform to urge world leaders to develop conservation plans, set shark fishing limits, enact trade protections and create shark sanctuaries.

The fact that people will listen to their message is critical, Salamone says, because most people don’t even know that sharks are in trouble.

“[Fear] is the biggest challenge we face,” she says. “Because people are so afraid, sharks are not the first animals people think of wanting to save. They think that sharks can take care of themselves, but they’re a lot more vulnerable than they look.”

Shark Fight

Salamone is hoping that “Shark Fight,” a TV special about the survivors airing during Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” will help educate people about the plight of sharks.

“This is the perfect show in terms of blending the drama of Shark Week with conservation,” Salamone says. “You’re getting the drama that’s interesting enough to keep people really intrigued so that when those conservation messages come out, they’re being heard.”

For Salamone and her fellow shark attack survivors, it’s an opportunity to turn a traumatic experience into something worthwhile.

“We can leave a legacy, and it’s not a legacy of fear – it’s a legacy of conservation.”

Shark Fight premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel.

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