World's Largest Known Bear Identified
The largest individual bear from an existing species was a male polar bear that weighed in at 2,200 pounds.
Frozen Planet began airing on Discovery Channel on March 18. In this ultimate portrait of animals in the frozen zones of the Arctic and the Antarctic, we get to see, up close, the animals that live in this habitat like we have never seen them before. The stars of the show are the animals, like the Adelie penguins in Cape Crozier, Antarctica (seen here). The following is a look at some of our favorite images from the series, which you can see every Sunday at 8 e/p from March 18 until April 15.
FROZEN PLANET VIDEOS: On the Discovery Channel
Great Grey 'Ghost' Owl
One of the largest owls in the world with a wingspan of between four and five feet, it is often referred to as the Great Grey Ghost or Phantom of the North because it is so reclusive.
NEWS: Killing Barred Owls to Save the Spotted Owl
Unlike dark-eyed nocturnal owls, the Great Grey Owl has distinctive piercing eyes, which may be an adaptation to hunting by day.
Emperor Penguin, Ross Sea, Antarctica
During the winter months in Antarctica, male emperor penguins keeps their eggs warm. They remain alone for the six months of winter without feeding, waiting for the return of the sun and their female partners, who have been gone, feeding.
BLOG: Why Are Penguins Losing Their Feathers?
During the depths of winter, they have to endure temperatures of minus 60 degrees Centigrade.
Sea Lion and Gentoo Penguin
A sea lion chases a Gentoo penguin onto land - both are like fish out of water and the sea lion struggles to make a kill.
BRIEF: Ancient Penguin Weighed 130 Pounds
The fully-grown Gentoo penguin has no natural predators living on land, though birds will occasionally steal eggs from their nests.
Grey Wolf, Ellesmere Island, Canada
Young pups born into the High Arctic packs have a precarious life ahead of them if they are to grow to a size big enough to survive the next winter.
BRIEF: Grey Wolf Removed from Endangered Species List
Snowy Owl, Artic
Each snowy owl chick eats two lemmings a day, so the parents are kept very busy. During nesting season, predators abound as the owls are stuck on the ground to tend the eggs. Both the male and female dive-bomb predators until the chicks are able to fly and they can all escape the ground.
A beluga whale enjoys a body scrub. It uses the gravel on the beach as a loofah to scrape off old skin as it molts.
BLOG: Mariachi Band Serenades Beluga Whale
Polar Bears, Hudson Bay, Canada
Frozen Planet captured a surprisingly playful and sociable side of polar bears.
BLOG: Big Question for 2012: Is the Polar Bear Doomed?
In the 1970s there were an estimated 5,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic. Since conservation began 46 years ago, the current population is estimated to be 20,000 to 25,000.
Musk Ox, Canadian Arctic
Musk ox are Arctic residents and are uniquely adapted to withstand the ferocious Arctic winters with a double layer of fur.
Arctic Wolf Chasing Buffalo
An Arctic wolf chases after a herd of wood buffalo, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.
Polar Bear Cubs
A pair of two-day old polar bear cubs. At this age they weigh less than a kilo so by weight are less than 280 times smaller than their mother.
BRIEF: New Webcam Allows World to Watch Polar Bear Migration
Over the next 12 to 18 weeks, the bears will nurse. After three or four months, they will leave the den where they were born to learn survival and hunting skills from their mother.
Grey Wolf Watches Crew
The crew filming "Frozen Planet" at Karrak Lake, Barrenlands, Canadian Arctic, encountered some incredible things. As the midnight sun glows on the horizon, a lone Arctic wolf spots the crew and eyes them curiously. After spotting them on the horizon, this wolf traveled over 6 miles to see humans, a species it was unlikely to have encountered before. "Completely naive and unafraid, he sniffed around our feet as our hearts pounded. He then gave us this quizzical last look and headed back across the horizon," crewmembers said.
Least Weasel, Finland
The least weasel is the smallest carnivore in the world; the very smallest are found in the High Arctic (weighing an ounce, average body length of about 5 inches). They stay active throughout the winter despite extreme temperatures that can drop below minus 50 degrees Centigrade. These tiny mammals are voracious hunters, tracking down voles, mice and shrews that live in icy corridors below the snow. Their slim-line bodies allow them to hunt in tunnels the same width as their prey. The snow acts as an insulator, keeping the "subnivean" world at an almost constant minus one degree, so despite their tiny bodies, these little mammals, both predator and prey, can live comfortably even in the coldest months.
Dolgan Hunter With Reindeer
A member of the Dolgan tribe rounds up his reindeer. The Dolgan live in the most northerly mainland region of the Arctic, the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. Siberia is also the coldest region of the Arctic, where temperatures often reach minus 60 degrees Centigrade. The lasso was first invented in Central Asia and came north centuries ago with the Dolgan's ancestors. The best lassooes are made from walrus or bearded sealskin, which the Dolgan traditionally obtain in the summer, when they bring their herds to the coast and trade with the coastal hunters.
GET MORE VIDEOS AND BLOGS AT FROZEN PLANET ON DISCOVERY CHANNEL
- The world's largest known bear was a male South American giant bear that was 11 feet tall.
- The bear likely evolved such a large body size due to the absence of other large carnivores.
- The elderly male bear sustained numerous serious injuries during its lifetime, possibly due to fighting with other males or saber-toothed cats.
A male South American giant short-faced bear has just broken the record for world's largest bear, according to a paper in this month's Journal of Paleontology.
Standing 11 feet tall and weighing in at about 3,500 pounds, the bear, which lived in Argentina during the Pleistocene Ice Age, would have towered over the world's largest individual bear from an existing species. That distinction belongs to a male polar bear that weighed in at 2,200 pounds.
Huge body size benefited the South American giant short-faced bear (Arctotherium angustidens) during the species' existence from two to half a million years ago.
"During its time, this bear was the largest and most powerful land predator in the world, so we think it lived free of fear of being eaten," co-author Leopoldo Soibelzon told Discovery News.
Soibelzon, a researcher in the Vertebrate Paleontology Division at the La Plata Museum, and colleague Blaine Schubert of East Tennessee State University made the determinations after analyzing fossilized remains of the bear. The fossils were unearthed during a La Plata City construction project. They were donated in 1935 to the museum there, where the bones have been ever since.
Extensive prior work conducted by the authors looked at other extinct and living bear species. The research found that the most reliable predictor of body size in bears is based on seven particular bone measurements. Soibelzon and Schubert calculated the giant bear's size using these measurements of leg bones, along with equations for estimating body mass.
The scientists think the bear evolved to become so huge due to the absence of other large carnivores in its habitat. The saber-toothed cat was also high up on the Argentina food chain at the time, but it was still much smaller than the South American giant short-faced bear.
A variety of big herbivores additionally lived in the region at the time, providing plenty of dinner options for the enormous bear.
The largest individual bear from an existing species was a male polar bear that weighed in at 2,200 pounds. Getty Images
"A. angustidens probably had an omnivorous diet composed of a great variety of components, but with a predominance of animal remains," said Soibelzon. "Among them, probably the bones and flesh of large mammals were very important in its diet."
The particular male bear individual that the scientists studied reached old age despite sustaining serious injuries during its life. The fossilized remains still retain signs of those injuries.
The researchers aren't certain what caused the physical damage, but Soibelzon said that "certainly male-to-male fighting would be a possibility."
"Other possibilities include hunting megafauna, like giant ground sloths," he added, "and disputes with other carnivores, such as a saber-toothed cat, over a carcass."
Schubert said the bear was part of a group of bears known as the tremarctines that has only one living representative: the spectacled bear. This modern bear is a relatively small species, reflecting selection pressures that have occurred over the years. During the Pleistocene, however, huge bears lived in both South America and North America. Europe was also home to a gigantic cave bear.
Eduardo Tonni, who is head of the Vertebrate Paleontology Division at the Museo de La Plata, told Discovery News he agrees with the new findings since the conclusions made by the authors "are well sustained by the fossil record and current knowledge." Tonni said the two researchers have been studying important fossil collections for prehistoric South American, North American and European mammals over the last 14 years.
Tonni added that the researchers "analyzed and compared, for the first time, the evolutionary trends of fossil and living bears."