Beyond White: Are Polar Bears Black?

are polar bears black

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Polar bears are large, predatory bears that are categorized as marine mammals and use their hunting skills to feed on seals, penguins, fish, and even arctic foxes.

These unique bears live in the icy Arctic regions where they use the ice caps to wait for seals to surface for air before striking in hopes to catch their next meal.

With the ice caps melting each year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for polar bears to hunt as their habitat is quite literally melting before their eyes, resulting in a sharp decline in the polar bear population.

Today, we’re going to take a look at polar bear fur, and more specifically answer a common question asked here at MarinePatch. Are polar bears black?

In short, yes, polar bears are truly black. Their fur is transparent and hollow which is the reason for it being white in the Arctic to allow them to stay camouflaged. However, their actual skin is black and has no white pigment at all.

Are Polar Bears Really Black?

Polar bears have black skin and two layers of translucent, hollow fur that give the illusion of their fur being white.

However, the color of a polar bear depends on its surroundings and the light they are exposed to. In the Arctic when the sun is shining bright, the light reflects just like snow and the polar bear looks white.

But polar bears that eat a regular diet of seals can have a light yellow appearance due to the seal oils they consume.

Polar bears in captivity can even have algae growing on their skin which can make them look green.

The algae grow inside tiny holes inside their fur caused by abrasive pen floors.

The color of a polar bear largely depends on its environment. They can look more grey in cloudy weather and even have a reddish glow at sunset.

All in all, underneath that thick coat of fur, a polar bear’s skin is black. They are firstborn with pink skin but as they mature to around 5 months old their skin adapts and turns black.

Why Are Polar Bears Actually Black?

It’s still largely a mystery as to why polar bears have black skin. For years it was thought that their skin was part of a thermal radiation effect that helped polar bears absorb heat from the UV light of the sun.

But later this theory was disproved by scientists who found that UV light does not pass through their fur.

Also, it didn’t make sense that polar bears would rely so heavily on the sun for heat since there is no sun during the winter months in the Arctic region.

If you look closely around the nose and mouth of a polar bear you will likely see scars from where they are fighting and be able to see the true color of a polar bear’s skin.

Can Polar Bears Be Albino?

Although rare, polar bears can actually be albino which makes their nose and eye color change.

Albinos are people or animals that lack the normal pigmentation of skin, hair, and eyes of their genetic makeup.

The albino trait for polar bears is to have pink eyes with red pupils, as well as a pink nose instead of a black one.

Almost every mammal has been seen in albino form, and the polar bear is no exception. Despite them being rare they most certainly do exist.

Why Do Polar Bears Have White Fur?

On top of the polar bear’s black skin, they have two layers of insulation that keep them warm. The first is a soft, translucent undercoat of fur and the second is a thick layer of guard hairs.

These staw-like hairs contain an off-white color of a protein called keratin which is also found in human hair, skin, and nails.

When the sun shines on a polar bear, visible light is reflected onto the hair and fur in the same way that snow reflects all the colors on the spectrum to appear white.

But since the hairs are hollow, a polar bear’s diet and environment can have an effect on the color as mentioned above.

As polar bears live in the Arctic, the sun is shining on them most of the day which makes their fur appear white, giving them camouflage and helping them to hunt their prey.

Their camouflage can be so effective that these animals can even pass as a snowdrift and roam around undetected by many animals.

Is A Polar Bear Black At Night?

During the night, polar bears still have black skin and translucent fur just like they do in the daytime.

This means that if at the night you shined visible light on a polar bear it would still look white due to the way its fur reflects the light.

That said, if you looked at a polar bear through an infrared camera at night when there is no visible light, the polar bear would look black.

Final Thoughts

So, are polar bears black? Yes, the skin of a polar bear is actually black and not white like many believe. They have translucent fur which reflects light back giving the appearance that these animals are white.

This isn’t so bad however given the environment that polar bears live in. Their surroundings are white which allows them to stay camouflaged and hunt predators more effectively in the Arctic conditions.

A polar bear’s color can vary depending on its diet and environment. Some polar bears in captivity can look green and they can even appear grey when the weather is cloudy and the sun is not shining so bright.

These beautiful animals are declining rapidly due to their environment melting away, resulting in more and more polar bears struggling to find food and ultimately perishing.

Hopefully, this post has been useful and you’ve learned something new today about the color of polar bears and why they are truly black.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share it with others who may find it of value.