What Color Is a Polar Bear?

January 22

Do you know . . . why are your garments hot, when He quiets the earth by the south wind? - Job 37:16-17 NKJV

Answer this question. What color is a polar bear? Now, we didn’t ask you what color the polar bear appears to be. Everybody knows—and every picture of a polar bear clearly shows—that the bear seems to be white except for its dark eyes, dark nose, and dark foot pads and claws. But this question is different. Regardless of what color the polar bear appears to be, what color is it really?

If you think that the polar bear is black, you’re correct. Every polar bear is black from the tip of its nose to the tip of its very short tail. Now, how can something black look so white? There is a logical explanation. While the polar bear appears to be white, its skin is black. And polar bear hairs are hollow transparent tubes, so the fur has no white color at all!

Its fur is actually part of a complex and effi­cient system that enables the animal to survive the intense cold of its arctic home. The Creator has provided this bear with a combination parka and wetsuit to keep it warm in cold wind as well as in cold water. Starting from the out­side is a thick mat of long, hollow, and color­less hairs that capture sunlight and channel it to the black skin that absorbs the heat. Dark clothing is warmer than white clothing for the same reason. Some of the sunlight bounces off the polar bear’s hairs, and the reflection makes the bear look white. But most of the light rays pass through the hollow tubes and get absorbed by the bear’s black skin.

Under the black skin is a thick layer of blubber that serves the same function as a wetsuit on a diver. The blubber may be as much as four inches thick in spots. It protects the bear’s vital organs from the cold of the Arctic Ocean so thoroughly that the animal can swim in frigid water for hours at a time.

In our text, God challenges Job to explain how he gets warmer when the cold north wind ceases and the south wind blows. We could ask a similar question about the polar bear. How would you provide the polar bear with the ability to survive the harshest of con­ditions? To start with, you’d have to use a solar heating system in which light would be the primary source of heat. Where would you go from there?

Nature Quest – James & Priscilla Tucker