Penguins and polar bears easily conjures pictures of our frozen poles but how much do you really know about these amazing creatures?
One of the main draws of the little-explored Polar Regions is the incredible endemic wildlife – and in particular, the penguins and polar bears. These charming animals, which we see all around at this festive time of year, are objects of wonder and adoration for many of us. We thought we’d share some facts about these incredible creatures that you (probably) never knew!
1. You’ll not find polar bears and penguins together - polar bears live in the Arctic but not in the Antarctic. In fact, the word Arctic comes from the Greek word for ‘bear’ – arkoúda. So in fact Antarctic basically means no bears – and that’s where you’ll find penguins.
2. There are 17 species of penguin, but the continent of Antarctica is home to only four breeding species of them. By far the most common is the chinstrap penguin, which owes its name to the narrow black band under its head. The second-most is the Adélie penguin, numbering approximately 2.3 million pairs in Antarctica. Other penguin species on the continent include the Emperor penguin and the gentoo penguin.
3. The staple food in a polar bear’s diet is seals, particularly the blubber of ringed seals which has a high calorific value. This helps them to maintain a thick layer of fat for both insulation against the cold and an energy store for when food is scarce.
4. Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguins - an average bird stand about 45 inches tall and they can dive up to 1,850 feet.
5. Polar bears can swim up to six miles an hour – their partially webbed feet help them move through the water. The polar bear is the only bear which is considered to be a marine mammal – its Latin name is Ursus maritimus.
6. Penguins are often called 'flippered flyers' because of their effortless movement through the water. This bird is not able to fly; its wings are developed for swimming rather than flying. Underwater, they can reach speeds of up to 15 to 25 miles per hour.
7. Polar bears have a very strong sense of smell, which helps them when hunting. They can even smell a seal’s breathing hole up to a mile away.
8. Male emperor penguins stand for about 65 days through the icy temperatures and wild storms to keep their eggs warm. During this time, temperatures outside reach -60°C!
9. Polar bears don’t hibernate. Females will spend more time in their dens when pregnant but generally these large animals keep going throughout the winter.
10. Female penguins sometimes travel 50 miles to the open ocean, for fish, squid and krill. When they return to the colony, they carry a stomach full of food to regurgitate to their young.
11. Polar bears occasionally inter-breed with grizzly bears creating a hybrid bear known as a pizzly bear, prizzly bear or grolar bear. The existence of these hybrid bears in the wild was only confirmed in 2006, but they are expected to become more common as polar bears extend their hunting grounds due to scarcity of pack ice.
If you want to see penguins in the wild there’s no better way than on an Antarctic Polar Voyage – take a look at our Antarctic trips
Or if you’re more a polar bear person, travel north on one of our Arctic Polar Voyages