Do Polar Bears Live In Antarctica? What Climate Can They Survive In?

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 28, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 28, 2021
Do polar bears live in Antarctica? Keep reading to find out incredible facts about polar bears.

The polar bear is an animal that lives in the Arctic.

They are a part of the Arctic wildlife. Polar bears are also descendants of brown bears.

The polar bear is a species of white furry large bears that lives on the ice of the Arctic. They eat seals and walruses that are also found there. The population of these bears is in danger because the ice in the Arctic is rapidly melting due to global warming.

Would a polar bear survive in the Antarctic?

Polar bears live in the Arctic, at the north pole of the earth. They don't live in the Antarctic, which is the south pole of the world, and never have. Both poles of the earth have similar habitats and wildlife, but there will be problems if polar bears moved to Antarctica.

Since polar bears moved to the Northern Hemisphere when Pangea broke apart, more specifically, to the Arctic, they have lived there. They adapted to the natural wild habitat, food source and they also evolved there.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of the polar bears (Ursus maritimus) is now Vulnerable.

Polar bears highly rely on sea ice to live and the single largest threat to the number of their population is the melting of sea ice owing to global warming and climate change. Hence, many have raised the question of why not move them to the Antarctic to save them.

The answer is manifold. It's true that the climate and habitats of the two poles of the earth are very similar, so if moved, polar bears will survive, but for how long and at what cost?

Other than orcas and leopard seals, there are no dangerous animals or large predators in the Antarctic.

That's why penguin species live a pretty good life there. If moved, the already endangered penguin species would fall easy prey to the large polar bears and the flora and fauna of the region would be destroyed very quickly.

Antarctica is also isolated from the rest of the human residents or the rest of the continents of the Southern Hemisphere. Polar bears are good swimmers, but even though they rely mostly on ice, they also move to land during winter.

They move around as far as 621.4 miles (1,000 km) north and south in the Arctic with the increasing and decreasing ice packs. Hence, their movement will also be restricted a lot if they were moved to Antarctica.

What would happen if you put a polar bear in the Antarctic?

Even scientists have not found the ultimate answer to this question, what would happen if they moved polar bears to Antarctica. However, if history has taught us anything, it will probably prove to be catastrophic.

We have already learned that if moved, polar bears will be able to live. They will get their required environment to live in, but the cost might be a bit too high to pay. Hence, the points we need to figure out for ourselves what would happen if they were to be moved are:

Climate change will still affect them: the reason people are even thinking of moving the polar bears to Antarctica to save them is because of their declining population owing to sea ice melting. However, the Antarctic is facing the same problem as well.

The Antarctic was losing 40 billion tons of ice per year during 1979-1990. The numbers have gone up exponentially. The region lost 252 billion tons of ice every year during 2009-2018.

This is a sign that the time isn't far when animals living entirely dependent upon the Antarctic environment will face the same problems as polar bears. Hence, even if polar bears are moved, they will face the same thing again down the line.

They will become an invasive predator species: the Arctic is an ocean separated from land with massive sea ice floating moving in it. Therefore, there might be many diseases that are trapped in the ice.

If the polar bears carry diseases to the south pole, the native animals may get contaminated and pose a threat to their survival. One can easily imagine that polar bears will also most definitely prey on the already endangered penguin species being the apex predator here. History has not been kind.

It shows examples of effects some exotic, invasive species brought after their introduction. For example, the brown tree snake has affected many native bird populations of Guam after it was introduced.

What climate can polar bears survive in?

Polar bears stay on the ice pack around the Arctic Circle. Their lives depend on this sea ice. Their food habits even depend on the animals that are found around the Arctic Circle.

Polar bears stay on the surface of the ice archipelago. They move along the ice pack of the Arctic Ocean.

They can be found across the landfast ice that surrounds the coastal areas as well.

They hunt near the pressure ridges and ice edges of the ice packs. It serves as a perfect hunting ground of seals and walruses.

They mainly feed on the hooded seal, the bearded seal, and more species of seals, walruses, small mammals, fish, sea birds, their eggs, and more.

When winter comes and the amount of sea ice increases, the bears move across it and reach the southernmost part of the sea ice, which forms across the coastline of countries.

When summer comes, as the ice starts receding, bears stay along the edges of the ice pack and turn back to the north again with it remaining in the islands.

Some may stay back on the coastlines where the winter ice is retained, while some get stranded on land and are forced to stay in the warm weather.

Pregnant polar bears overwinter on coastlines where they build dens for themselves and the bearing cubs. The populations of polar bears have been divided across six regions: Svalbard-Franz Josef land, Arctic archipelago of Canada, West Alaska and Wrangel Island, Central Siberia, Greenland, and North Alaska.

How did polar bears reach the Arctic?

Polar bears are descendants of brown bears. As the Pangea divided millions of years ago, the ancestors of polar bears moved to the Arctic. They adapted to the extreme weather, evolved, and became the polar bears we know today.

The journey of the polar bears to the Arctic began when Pangea began to divide, approximately 200 million years ago. Pangea was a single large landmass where all seven continents of today were joined by one another.

However, around 200 million years ago, Pangea began to drift apart and many animals started to move from one corner to the other, adapted, and evolved according to the habitats and wildlife they were stuck in.

Polar bears are descendants of brown bears. When Pangea broke apart, these ancestors, the brown bears, ended up in the Northern Hemisphere and scientists think that as the weather grew warmer, the bears kept going northwards and came back as the weather grew cold.

Until one faction of those migrating groups of bears were stranded on the northernmost parts of the world, the Arctic, and were forced to adapt to life there.

Polar bears evolved throughout many more millions of years according to the climate of their habitat. Their fur has grown white, they have a thick layer of fat, their tail and ears are small to limit heat loss, and most remarkably, they live on an entirely fat rich diet without damaging their hearts.

That's why we don't see them in other parts of the world, including Antarctica, because they evolved by adapting to the habitat after moving to the Arctic. The species is fairly young, only about 480,000 years old or less.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do polar bears live in Antarctica? Then why not take a look at how fast can a bear run, or polar bear facts pages?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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