Polar bears, the kings of the Arctic, are one of the most magnificent terrestrial carnivores on the planet. They are born on the land but spend most of their years drifting out to the sea. Their scientific name, meaning ‘maritime bear,’ derives from this.
The close resemblance of the polar bears to humans, especially their standing and sitting traits, has led them to be considered an essential spiritual aspect in many tribal religions.
Human history has revealed a great reverence for polar bears. It is reckoned that they partly inspire our behaviors of forming ice igloos and seal hunting. Polar bears have been portrayed in our paintings for over millennia, and it has accorded a deep connection between humans and them.
Modern scientists attribute it to their brain anatomy. With an enigmatic brain, these animals, after humans, are thought to have higher evolutionary intelligence than most land mammals.
They have some of the largest, bulkiest, and most convoluted brains., from an evolutionary point of view, we share some similar levels of sophisticated cognitive characteristics with them.
Let us see whether their altruism results from their supposed cognitive intelligence or a reflection of their solid evolutionary adaptations.
How wise is a polar bear?
Polar bears are known for their craftiness. The animals’ intelligence is primarily attributed to their hunting abilities. Even though the bear does not have the fastest or the most robust qualities, we still know it as an eminent land carnivore because of its predatory style.
Patience and technique are two of their most critical mannerisms. They can stand motionless in front of seal caves for hours without tiring, waiting for the proper chance to pounce.
The land mammals can outrun them, and most sea creatures can out-swim them. They have learned to be excellent hunters with maneuverability, aiding their survival. Sometimes they even throw rocks at their prey to knock them out.
These creatures show some human-like attributes. Aside from mirroring our stance while sitting or standing, they also tend to walk and run on the pads of their paws. They also pick up branches or sticks to scratch their backs.
Polar bears can use complex tools. ‘Doug Seuss’s Kodiak Grizzly Bart’ was attributed to using a piece of wood as a bridge to cross a thorny bush to get to his coke on the other side.
Another meaningful sign of their intelligence is their emotional capacity. The polar bears use both verbal and paralinguistic cues in their communication.
The roars and growls of polar bears are reserved for showing anger, while a smaller hiss shows their aggression.
An important characteristic that separates humans from ordinary mammals is self-awareness—recognizing yourself. Knowing who or what you are is essential when mapping out your intelligence quotient.
Although we are not sure about the degree of self-awareness a polar bear shows, there have been instances where bears have been bewildered by their reflections, staring at it for hours on end.
Bears are one of the few creatures truly mystified by nature’s beauty. Once they find a lovely spot where the scenery appeals to their senses, they stare at it, motionless, for long periods. Their trance-like state has been compared to the mystic trance of human spirituality.
Do polar bears have a high IQ?
They have long been thought of as some of the most imaginative creatures in the world. Modern scientists accredit them with intelligence equal to the great apes. Some even compare them to a 3-year-old human child.
It might seem not very important, considering our own, but in the Animal kingdom, especially the terrestrial carnivores, such a level of intelligence is rare.
Behavioral traits of polar bears
Polar bears exemplify a complex carnivore, from their crafty hunting habits to their emotional responses. Their behavior is an example of successful evolutionary adaptations. From a young age, polar bears are groomed to live to their full potential as hunters.
The mothers play an attentive role in the growth of their cubs. Frequent grooming and discipline are considered essential.
The first three years of the cub’s life are spent under the harsh scrutiny of the mother bear. The mother cubs discipline the young ones when their behavior is a danger to their life or even when they’re being plain annoying.
The response is usually the same: they send their cub rolling with one swipe of the paw.
Albeit extraordinarily protective and devoted to their young ones, the mothers are also known to adopt cubs from different mothers.
Polar bears are adept at play fighting. Most of their waking hours are spent chasing and tackling their partners. Young cubs also learn to show this behavior early on in their grooming.
Unlike most animals, bears do not hibernate. They enter a state of carnivore lethargy. According to a study, they can spend up to 87% of their time sleeping or resting.
However, a pregnant mother enters the state of hibernation. For the better part of a year, the mothers feed themselves to store food reserves and dig holes in the snow to hibernate.
Their ice holes are popularly called ‘two-roomed maternity dens.’ They appear in autumn, where the mother bear rests until the birth of its cubs in winter.
During this process, they lose their body fat. The mother bear’s heart rate and body temperature also drop below normal.
Even though we don’t have a concrete understanding of the polar bear’s intelligence, we cannot deny the importance of this terrestrial animal. Human history has held these mammals in high regard because of their complex natures.
At the top of the food chain, these fascinating creatures aid in our understanding of the ecosystem and are an essential part of this planet’s history, ecology, and sociology.
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