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12 Deep-Diving Facts About Whales

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At the end of every summer, there’s a resurgence of marine life in Monterey, Calif., as animals of all different species descend on Monterey Bay in search of readily available food. This year, PBS and BBC have partnered to produce a three-day live television series called Big Blue Live that will showcase this spectacular natural confluence. From Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS you can tune in to see dolphins, sharks, sea otters, sea lions, seals, pelicans, shearwaters, and, hopefully, lots of whales. But before you do, we talked to Dr. Joy Reidenberg, a scientist and contributor to the program, about what makes whales so fascinating.

1. ANCIENT GREEKS THOUGHT WHALES WERE SEA MONSTERS.

The generic term for whales is Cetacea, which actually refers not only to the creatures we call whales but also dolphins and porpoises. It comes from the Greek word keto; in Greek mythology, Keto was the goddess of sea monsters, and when the Greeks saw the cresting backs of a group of whales, they believed them to be all part of one giant sea serpent.

2. WHALES HAVE AN HERBIVORE ANCESTOR.

The closest living relative to whales is the hippo, another aquatic mammal (though not to the same degree, of course). But they’re descended from a long line of four-legged animals—including the remarkable-looking ambulocetus, or “walking whale”—a mammal that resembled a crocodile in shape. Although all whales today are carnivores, according to Reidenberg, “They derive from an ancestor that’s not a carnivore. Their common ancestor was an animal that’s very much like modern-day artiodactyls, i.e., ruminant animals that chew their cud—cows, deer, sheep, giraffe.”

3. SOME TOOTHED WHALES RELY ON SUCTION FOR SNAGGING FOOD.

Scientifically, whales are divided into two main categories: Those that have teeth and those that have baleen. Within the toothed designation—whales known as “Odontoceti”—there are two sub-categories. As Reidenberg explains, some have “a tooth structure that’s not all that different from what you see in a crocodile or an alligator—lots of teeth, all the same shape, all lined up, all roughly the same size, and they just snap those teeth together to grab the fish.”

But other species, like the sperm whale, only have teeth on their bottom jaw, which makes it all but impossible to grab their food. Instead, they rely on suction. “When they want to eat something like a squid, they get really close to the squid and they suddenly depress a bone in their throat called the hyoid," Reidenberg says. "It pulls the back of the tongue inwards and creates a negative pressure in the mouth and that sucks the prey with the water into the mouth. They then squeeze the water back out and swallow the prey. They’re like vacuum cleaners going around sucking in their prey.”

4. BALEEN IS NOT A FORM OF TEETH.

The whales that have baleen are known as “Mysticeti”—Greek for “mustached whales.” Although they have baleen instead of teeth, it’s not because the teeth have evolved into baleen or even fully replaced teeth. In fact, “as a fetus they have both and just never fully develop the teeth. They only develop the baleen,” Reidenberg says. The baleen is made of keratin, like your hair or finger nails, and grew out of the same ridges that are also in human mouths. “If you feel the top of your mouth, it’s kind of bumpy. That’s what becomes baleen in baleen whales,” Reidenberg says.

5. SOME BALEEN WHALES CAN EXPAND THEIR THROATS.

Just like there are two types of odontocetes (toothed whales), there are also two types of mysticetes (baleen whales). Some baleen whales, such as right whales, are constantly taking in water and filtering it out the back of their mouth. Tiny prey collects on their vast baleen plates, which they then lick off for food. Others, like humpbacks and blue whales, are “lunge feeders” who take in huge gulps of water that they then push out through smaller baleen to sieve for food. Some whales even expand their throats like a pelican to create a bowl out of their lower jaw, which is equipped with accordion pleats that allow for huge expansion. According to Reidenberg, “they take in a volume of water that’s pretty close to the volume of the whole animal itself, so they can almost fit another whale in their throat."

6. BALEEN COMES IN DIFFERENT COLORS.

Some whales are blonds and some whales are brunettes, but what’s more interesting is that some whales have incredibly strategic streaks. Many whales rely on counter-shading, with dark tops and light bellies, for camouflage. This way, fish looking down at the dark depths of the ocean will be less likely to notice the dark top of a whale, while fish underneath the animal will be less likely to notice a white belly as it blends in with the bright sky. The exception is fin whales, which turn on their sides to feed. Their coloration differs side to side and not top to bottom.

7. THEY DON’T EAT YEAR ROUND.

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You might think that such huge animals—the average weight of a blue whale hovers around 420,000 pounds—subsisting on such tiny prey would have to eat constantly. But in fact, whales go about half the year eating nothing at all. They feast in nutrient-rich cold water near the poles, but then migrate closer to the equator for mating and don’t eat at all—all that gorgeous, clear water around the middle of the world is so transparent because it lacks nutrients, like krill. Whales prefer to mate and give birth there though, because of the lack of potential predators.

“They’re not eating the entire time they’re in the south,” Reidenberg says. “This means moms have to nurse a baby or carry pregnancy off of the fat that she’s carrying. This is the reason why, most of the time, the bigger whales are actually female, which is backwards from the rest of the mammalian world. She’s got to carry around this enormous backpack of extra fat, all distributed around her body, not only to sustain her but to sustain the calf or the fetus.”

8. YOU CAN DECIPHER WHALE SPECIES BY THE SHAPE OF THE BLOWHOLE SPRAY.

First of all, what you see when a whale spouts out of its blowhole at the surface is not water from the ocean, but rather the condensate from air in its lungs. “They exhale like we sneeze, all of it comes out very suddenly and under high pressure," Reidenberg says. "It’s almost like popping open a soda can. When you pop open a soda can, you see that little mist—that’s kind of what a whale does every time it breathes because it’s under high pressure. Any dissolved fluid in the vapor become droplets.”

And these clouds of droplets take a distinct shape depending on the species of whale. A long, skinny, smokestack-like puff is usually a blue whale or a fin whale. If it’s more heart-shaped, then it’s more likely to be a humpback whale, and if it’s more V-shaped, that’s more likely to be a right whale.

9. ALTHOUGH THEY DON’T HAVE LEGS ANYMORE, WHALES STILL HAVE A PELVIS.

It’s not purely a vestige from their land-locked era many eons ago, either. Skeletally speaking, the pelvis reduced to two small bones that are just sort of floating—one on each side of the whale, unattached to the spine. But it’s still functional. For all whales, it serves to support the muscles of the belly. For males, it plays a crucial role as an anchor for the penis.

10. THEIR BONES ARE ACTUALLY HEAVIER THAN THOSE OF LAND ANIMALS.

Blubber is so buoyant that on its own, it would make the whales float too much, leaving them stuck at the water’s surface. In order to counteract this and be neutrally buoyant, whales have heavy bones.

To regulate their position in the water column, whales modulate the amount of air stored in an extra sac under their larynx. This air reserve is also used to vocalize without exhaling. Whales can recycle the same air past their vocal folds multiple times before having to return to the surface to breathe.

11. TOOTHED WHALES MAKE HIGH-FREQUENCY SOUNDS AND BALEEN WHALES MAKE LOW-FREQUENCY SOUNDS.

Toothed whales, including dolphins, rely on the short wave lengths of high-frequency sounds for super-specific echolocation. The way the sound waves bounce off of nearby objects allows the whales to detect nearby prey with remarkable detail—they can even sense the texture of the fish they’re “looking” at. Baleen whales, on the other hand, make very low frequency sounds with large wavelengths that don’t pick up on those fine details. The benefit is that low frequencies can travel long distances and not degenerate. This allows baleen whales like humpbacks to communicate with one another over very large distances.

12. WHALES AREN'T JUST HIGHLY INTELLIGENT—THEY’RE EMOTIONAL, TOO.

Because of the unattached pelvis bones, whales have a relatively unrestricted birth canal. Babies can be born with exceptionally large heads and big, complex brains, indicating a level of intelligence uncommon within the animal kingdom. They’re not just smart, though. Research from 2006 showed that whales have the same von Economo neurons (also known as spindle neurons) that allow humans to feel complex emotions.

This intelligence and social awareness is what allows humpback whales to coordinate an elaborate feeding method, in which one whale surrounds a school of fish by swimming in a spiral and releasing bubbles that rise up and create a wall. The fish fear the bubbles and end up trapped. One whale lets out a feeding call, inciting the pod to swim together through the spiral and scoop up the fish. Other whales, like killer whales, have similarly complex hunting methods.

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25 Icy-Cool Facts About Polar Bears
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From starring in Coca-Cola ads to becoming the poster child for climate change, the polar bear is quite the high-profile species. Ursus maritimus is a fascinating animal that roams across the Arctic Circle through Norway, Russia, Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, and there's more to them than the adorable faces you see in children's books and advertisements. Here are 25 facts you should know about the polar bear:

1. THEY'RE THE LARGEST CARNIVORES ON LAND.

A polar bear walks across the snow at sunset.
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Polar bears can weigh more than 1300 pounds and span more than 8 feet, 6 inches from nose to tail, making them the largest carnivores to currently walk the Earth. (Though other bears can grow larger, like Alaska's 10-foot-long Kodiak bear, they're omnivorous, while polar bears prefer an all-meat diet.) The males far outweigh their female counterparts, who may only weigh between 330 and 650 pounds. In general, though, a bear's weight fluctuates significantly throughout the year, with some bears packing on 50 percent more body weight over the course of a successful hunting season, then losing it over the course of their long fasting months.

2. BUT TECHNICALLY, THEY'RE MARINE MAMMALS.

A shot from below of two polar bears swimming in clear blue water
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Because they spend so much of their lives on ice, rather than land, polar bears are the only bears to be considered marine mammals. They hunt, court, and mate out on the ice, spending many months of the year far from land.

3. THEY'RE HIGHER ON THE FOOD CHAIN THAN WE ARE.

A large polar bear opens its mouth in a roar.
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Human beings aren't as high on the global food chain as you might think. Polar bears don't have any natural predators, and their intensely carnivorous diet puts them at the top of the food chain with species like killer whales, according to researchers, while humans fall somewhere closer to the middle. Don't worry too much about getting eaten by one, though—a 2017 study found that during the past 144 years, there have only been 20 fatal polar bear attacks in all of the five countries that have polar bear populations. However, as food becomes more scarce for the bears, humans living in polar territory may soon face more risk from starving bears.

4. THEY'RE LONERS …

A polar bear walks across a large field of ice.
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Other than the two to three years a cub spends with its mother, polar bears are pretty much solitary creatures. Adults spend only a few days a year mating, then go on their own way, spreading out to hunt on their own. They rely on the scent left by the sweat glands on their paws to track other bears, using the smell to sense where potential mates might be headed, among other things.

5. … BUT ARE SOMETIMES WILLING TO SHARE.

A polar bear sleeps cuddled next to her cub.
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Polar bears can play nice with each other sometimes. On occasion, they will hang out together in large groups, especially if there's a big meal that multiple bears can take part in, like a whale carcass. When they do spend time together (in what's called a sleuth), male bears will play-fight with each other, wrestling and swatting at each other without doing any real harm. According to the documentary Polar Bears: Spy on the Ice, polar bears can recognize friends they've met before even if they go without seeing each other for many years.

6. THEY'RE PICKY EATERS.

A polar bear shares food with a cub.
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When food is plentiful, polar bears are very selective about what they eat. They hunt seals, but if there are plenty available to hunt, they won't eat their whole catch. Instead, they'll only eat the energy-rich blubber (up to 100 pounds at a time), leaving the rest of the carcass for other animals to scavenge. When hunting is good, their diet is made up of about 90 to 95 percent fat. When times are lean, though, they'll happily branch out, eating reindeer, rodents, eggs, seaweed, and anything else they can get their claws on. However, because their bodies are so much better at digesting fat than protein, researchers think that if Arctic ice continues to melt and polar bears become unable access the ice (with its blubber-rich seals), they won't be able to get enough calories on land to survive [PDF].

7. THEY SPEND A LOT OF TIME FASTING.

A polar bear sprawls out on its stomach.
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When they're not out on the ice scoping out seals, polar bears spend an incredible amount of time fasting. The female polar bears fast longer than any other mammal species—in Canada's Hudson Bay, pregnant polar bears can fast up to 240 days, or almost eight months. There's reason to think they'll be fasting even longer in the future as sea ice melts, leaving bears with fewer hunting opportunities and less time to accumulate the fat stores needed to get through the lean months. During the 1980s, non-pregnant polar bears spent 120 days fasting between hunting seasons, but researchers now think that the bears will have to go without food longer and longer, fasting for as much as 180 days at a time in the future.

8. THEY WILL TRAVEL FAR TO FIND DINNER.

Two polar bears walk through the snow.
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The average bear might travel across 100,000 square miles in its lifetime, and that number may be getting higher. In 2013, a bear searcher told the BBC that polar bears were spending 9 to 13 percent more time being active to make up for the fact that the ice they hunt on is drifting faster, leaving them walking on a "treadmill" just to stay within their territory. One bear tracked by the WWF traveled almost 2300 miles from Norway to Russia in less than a year. Due to receding ice, polar bears have to walk farther to find prey, wasting valuable energy. The energy they gain from eating a single ringed seal might not even make up for what they expend trying to find and catch it.

9. THEY CAN SWIM FOR DAYS.

A polar bear swims toward the camera.
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Polar bears are savvy swimmers, paddling at an average speed of 6 miles per hour. And it's a good thing: Due to all that melting ice, polar bears are putting their swimming skills to lengthy use. In 2011, a study reported that a tagged female polar bear swam a total of 426 miles in one nine-day stretch across the Beaufort Sea above Alaska, losing 22 percent of her body weight in the process. Another bear in the study swam for 12 days, though she at least stopped to take some breaks.

10. THEY GET HOT FAST.

A wet polar bear sticks its tongue out.
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You'd think with all that plunging in Arctic waters, polar bears might get chilly occasionally. But since they're built to withstand extreme cold on a regular basis, they actually have the opposite problem: They overheat very easily, and are more likely to die from the heat than the cold. Their two layers of fur and solid layer of body fat (up to 4.5 inches thick) keep their metabolic rate consistent when temperatures reach as low as -34° F. They can sprint up to 30 miles per hour if need be, but much like you wouldn't want to run a race in a heavy ski jacket, polar bears can't spend much time chasing after their prey lest they overheat—a bear's body temperature can rise to feverish temps if they move too fast. On land, they typically only walk at speeds of three miles an hour, and their main hunting technique involves staying very still for hours or days at a time, waiting for a seal to emerge from the ice to breathe.

11. THEY'VE BEEN GETTING IT ON WITH GRIZZLIES.

A polar bear sits with her two cubs.
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In addition to changing their travel patterns and dinner prospects, climate change is altering polar bears' love lives. As the ice-traversing bears are forced to spend more time on the tundra, their habitats are starting to overlap with those of grizzly bears. In some places, the two species are getting more comfortable with each other, with amorous results. In Alaska and western Canada, grizzlies and polar bears are doing more cross-breeding, creating hybrid offspring.

12. THEY GROW A LOT IN THEIR FIRST FEW MONTHS.

A polar bear cub sits on its mother's back.
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At birth, polar bears weigh anywhere from 16 to 24 ounces—about what a guinea pig does. As newborns, they're blind, toothless, and only about a foot long. But by the time they emerge from their den for the first time around four months later, they are substantially larger, weighing between 22 and 33 pounds. In addition to nursing, they'll begin eating solid food around that time, and by 8 months old, they'll weigh 100 pounds or more.

13. THEY HAVE HUGE FEET.

A polar bear swipes its paws in the water.
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In order to balance on ice, polar bears boast giant feet. Their paws can measure up to 12 inches in diameter, acting like snowshoes to spread out their weight on thin ice and deep snow. The bumpy papillae (like the ones on your tongue) on their footpads help grip the ice, keeping them from sliding around. They also have long, curved claws that can measure almost 4 inches—all the better to grab onto slippery seals.

14. UNLIKE OTHER BEARS, THEY DON'T HIBERNATE.

A polar bear leaps into the water.
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While black bears, grizzlies, and other bear species spend each winter denning, forgoing eating, drinking, moving, pooping, and peeing for months on end, polar bears stay active all winter. Polar bears don't need to sleep through the winter, though, because there's plenty of food available to them in the coldest months, when they take to the sea ice to hunt for seals. The only exception is during pregnancy, when a female polar bear digs herself a den and remains sealed inside, surviving off her stores of fat, until her cubs grow large enough to survive outdoors.

15. THEY LOVE TO NAP DURING SNOWSTORMS.

Two polar bears sleep covered in snow.
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Polar bears may not hibernate, but they are happy to lay low when bad weather hits. During the winter, they dig themselves into shallow pits in the snow to protect themselves from wind, sometimes remaining there for days as the snow piles up on top of them like a warm blanket. Sometimes, they take a similar approach to staying cool, digging through the tundra down to the permafrost during the summer to keep from overheating.

16. THEY'RE VERY HARD TO TRACK.

A polar bear wears a tracking collar.
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Considering how far they travel—both walking and swimming—over a given year, you can imagine how hard it is for scientists to track polar bears. By nature, they spend a huge amount of time alone in remote locations. Scientists use boats, helicopters, and low-flying planes to observe them, but that only works in good weather and in certain locations. So recently, they've turned to satellites, fitting bears with non-invasive radio collars and tracking them through high-resolution satellite imagery. It's cheaper than sending out a helicopter, and it lets researchers identify bears even in the most remote areas of the Arctic.

17. THEIR NOSTRILS CLOSE WHILE THEY SWIM.

A swimming polar bear peeks its nose out of the water.
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Polar bears don't have to worry about getting water up their nose. When they swim, their nostrils close to prevent them from breathing in water. They can swim at depths up to 15 feet, and while they typically only dive for a few seconds, they can hold their breath for more than two minutes, enabling them to sneak up on seals resting on ice floes. In 2015, scientists reported observing a record-breaking polar bear dive that totaled 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The hungry bear stalked three seals from afar, swimming almost 150 feet underwater without surfacing for a breath or to reorient himself to the seals' location before bursting out of the water where one of the seals was resting. (Sadly, his prey got away.)

18. THEY CAN TURN GREEN IN CAPTIVITY.

A polar bear in a zoo swims with a ball.
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Though polar bears are sometimes known as the white bear, they aren't white. Their hair is colorless and hollow, and only appears white because of the way light scatters through their fur. (Under that mass of hair, their skin is as black as their noses.) When bears are subject to warmer temperatures in captivity, though, they can take on a bit of a verdant hue. Algae infestations can turn polar bears green, and not just on the outer layer of their fur. The colorful algae grows inside the hollow tube of each hair. This green growth thrives in humid climates, like Singapore, where the bears don't naturally live.

19. THEY'LL NEVER MEET A PENGUIN.

A Bulgarian stamp set featuring a polar bear, a seal, penguins, and a walrus.
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Though you might see polar bears and penguins together in Coca-Cola ads or on winter-themed pajamas, the two species never mix in real life. They live at opposite ends of the Earth, though they both spend their days in icy waters. Polar bears exclusively inhabit the Arctic, and penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere. The closest they ever get is when they live in the same zoo.

20. AT ONE ZOO, THEY POOP GLITTER.

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At the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada, the polar bears have sparkly poop. In 2014, zookeepers began feeding each of their bears a different color of non-toxic glitter so that they could trace their bowel movements, analyzing the samples to identify health issues, track stress hormones, and generally see how the bears are dealing with zoo life. The colors help the zookeepers label which poop comes from which bear.

21. EUROPEANS HAVE KEPT THEM IN CAPTIVITY SINCE THE 13TH CENTURY.

A 1938, black-and-white photo of a polar bear lying on its back in a zoo
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Captive polar bears have piqued public curiosity since as early as the Middle Ages, when the bears were occasionally given to European royalty by Viking traders. In the 1200s, when Henry III kept one in London, it was muzzled and chained but allowed to catch fish and swim in the Thames River. In the 17th century, Frederick I of Prussia kept a defanged and declawed polar bear, staging public fights between it and other large mammals for public amusement.

22. POSING WITH THEM WAS ONCE A POPULAR GERMAN PASTIME.

The orange cover of 'Teddybär' shows a person in a polar bear suit with his arms wrapped around a smiling boy.
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In the early 20th century, getting a picture with a man dressed in a polar bear suit was a fairly standard activity in Germany, at least according to the many photos found by French photo collector Jeann-Marie Donat. Donat spent 20 years tracking down the vintage photos, taken between 1920 and 1960, for his 2016 book Teddybär. There are several potential explanations for why so many Germans elected to stop for photos with people in polar bear suits (or to dress up as polar bears themselves). Donat suggests that it might trace back to the popularity of the two polar bears that arrived at the Berlin Zoo in the 1920s, while Hyperallergic notes that the costume was created as a Fanta advertising stunt, designed to distract Germans from the horrors of World War II. The photos show people young and old posing next to bears at the beach, in parks, in the street, in the summer and winter, alone and in groups. They all look delighted to get a chance at a polar-bear souvenir.

23. THEY CAN BE … POLARIZING.

Knut and his handler pose for photos lying down on their bellies.
John Macdougall, AFP/Getty Images

Knut, a polar bear cub born at the Berlin Zoological Garden in 2006, was hand-raised by zookeepers after being abandoned by his mother at birth. The cute cub became an instant tourist attraction—the most famous bear in the world, even—and the zoo's attendance rates skyrocketed, netting an extra $1.35 million in tickets when the bear began making twice-a-day public appearances.

But not everyone was psyched about "Knutmania." The young bear's popularity proved to be controversial for animal rights organizations like PETA, whose German spokesperson Frank Albrecht said the zoo should have let the orphaned Knut die rather than continue hand-feeding him, a process that he called a "gross violation of animal protection laws." In 2007, the bear received an anonymous, handwritten death threat from a hater who simply wrote "Knut is dead! Thursday midday." The zoo took the fax seriously enough to assign triple the amount of zookeepers keeping watch over the polar bear during his daily public romp. (Knut continued to live at the Berlin zoo until his death at age 4 from an autoimmune disease.)

24. THEY SOMETIMES GET THE CELEBRITY TREATMENT.

Photographers crowd in front of a barrier to photograph Knut at a zoo.
John Macdougall, AFP/Getty Images

In 2007, celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed Knut for the cover of Vanity Fair's annual "Green" issue. While Knut appeared solo on the cover of the German edition, he was Photoshopped into an image with Leonardo DiCaprio for the American edition. After his death, the Berlin zoo erected a bronze statue in his honor, and his body was preserved for display at the city’s natural history museum.

25. CHURCHILL, CANADA HAS A UNIQUE WAY OF LIVING WITH THEM.

A green sign in a snowy field reads 'Polar Bear Alert: Stop.'
Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Churchill, a town in Manitoba, Canada on the shores of the Hudson Bay, is known as the polar bear capital of the world. During the fall, hundreds of polar bears pass through on their way to their icy hunting grounds on the bay, waiting nearby as the ice hardens for the winter. The locals have adopted unique ways of living with the hungry bears. Many don't lock their doors, so that if someone is running away from a polar bear, they can duck into any doorway. Since Halloween falls right in the middle of polar bear season in town, city employees, police officers, volunteer fire officials, and polar bear conservationists stay on patrol to drive away any bears that might be tempted to go trick-or-treating themselves, using helicopters, sirens, air horns, rubber bullets, and more to keep the bears at bay. Kids, for their part, aren't allowed to wear anything white for the evening.

Churchill also runs a "polar bear jail" for bears that continue to wander into town. Residents are encouraged to call the Polar Bear Alert Program hotline year-round if they see a bear in town, and conservation officers will come and try to scare it away. If shooting loud scare rounds at the bear doesn't do the trick, they trap the bear, or, if all else fails, hit it with a tranquilizer dart and take it to the Polar Bear Holding Facility. The specially-designed compound can hold up to 30 bears and is meant to keep bears that are aggressive or persistently return to the community. When the bay freezes, these bears are transported by helicopter or vehicle onto the ice, where they resume their normal winter hunting routine. With warmer temperatures keeping bears off the ice for longer and longer periods, more towns may soon have to learn from Churchill's strategies for peaceful coexistence.

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Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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