Biologists have discovered why polar bears do not slip

(ORDO NEWS) — The pads of the paws of polar bears are dotted with microscopic tubercles. They increase traction, helping them slide less on ice and snow.

The natural habitat of polar bears is the endless snow and ice of the Arctic, the cold water of its seas. And these animals are superbly adapted to local harsh living conditions.

Suffice it to recall their thick coat, which retains heat so effectively that scientists have developed infrared camouflage based on it.

Another adaptation of polar bears to life in the north was discovered by scientists from the American University of Akron.

So far, Nathaniel Orndorf and colleagues have been researching geckos. These tiny lizards are able to run on walls and even ceilings, “sticking” to the surface due to the many tiny hairs on the pads of their paws.

Therefore, scientists wondered how polar bears do not slip on the snow and ice, on which they constantly move.

Biologists have discovered why polar bears do not slip 2
Grooving on the paw pads of polar bears

To do this, they took microphotographs of the paw pads of different types of bears – white, brown, black (baribals), as well as Malay, which never see snow or ice in their lives.

Comparing their surfaces, scientists noticed that all bears, in addition to the Malayan ones, have microscopic tubercles on their paws, making them slightly “grooved”.

At the same time, the height of the tubercles in polar bears turned out to be greater than in the rest. Using a 3D printer, the authors of the article printed such structures from an elastic polymer.

In laboratory experiments, they compared their grip to snow, showing that polar bear pads exhibit the highest possible friction.

This groove may be especially important given the relatively small foot size of polar bears.

Relative to the size of the body, their paws are noticeably smaller than those of their southern relatives, which allows them to lose less heat when in contact with a cold surface.

But this makes it difficult to grab the support by slightly squeezing the paw and plunging the claws into it, as brown and other bears do. This is why the bumps on the pads of polar bears can be so important.


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