The Bears Of Svalbard Have Started Giving Out Piggyback Rides

Illustration for article titled The Bears Of Svalbard Have Started Giving Out Piggyback Rides

In this image, snapped by a tourist in the Svalbard region of Norway, a polar bear cub hitches a ride on its mother's back. Biologists say that this behavior is rarely seen but might be more common than previously thought.

A paper published in the journal Polar Biology discusses the possible benefits to an arrangement like this one. The most common explanation is that the mother carries the slower moving cub to make swims between land masses quicker. This could make hunting easier, make swimming less tiring, or even help the less-insulated cub get out of the cold water as quickly as possible.

Ignoring for the moment this increasingly human-like behavior in polar bears in Svalbard, this image also seems to hint at climate fears. The paper suggests that the swimming time saved by this piggy-backing behavior would be very advantageous in an arctic region with decreasing ice.


Polar bear cub hitches a ride [BBC Earth News]

(Image: Angela Plumb)

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I also thought of the armoured bears as soon as I saw the picture. If only these polar bears could charter a boat to vacation in the Alps (the mental image of the armoured bears cruising along to better climates is one of my favourites from the books).