How do polar bears stay warm? © Getty Images

How do polar bears stay warm?

Polar bears are incredibly well insulated with both a thick layer of blubber underneath an even thicker layer of fur, but that's not all...

Asked by: Audrey Simms, Cirencester

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They are incredibly well insulated with a layer of blubber that can be up to 10cm thick covered with another 15cm of fur.

Polar bears lose so little heat to their environment that they are almost invisible to thermal imaging cameras. But a recent study at the University of Buffalo found that polar bears have also evolved genes that produce more nitric oxide than other bear species. Nitric oxide is a signalling molecule and one of the mechanisms it controls is whether cells use their available nutrients to produce metabolic energy, or simply convert it into body heat. Polar bears seem to be able to divert more of their body’s resources into generating heat. This relies on them getting enough fuel for this process and adult polar bears have a high calorie diet; they mostly eat seal blubber.

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