The World of Polar Bears

Scientific Classification

A. Order – Carnivora

  1. The scientific order Carnivora includes bears, dogs, cats, raccoons, otters, weasels, and their relatives. All typical carnivores have well developed claws and a pair of specialized cheek teeth for cutting hard foods.

B. Family – Ursidae

  1. All bears belong to this family. The family is divided into three subfamilies, Ursinae (black bears, brown bears, polar bears, sloth bears, and sun bears), Tremarctinae (spectacled bears), and Ailuropodinae (giant pandas).

C. Genus, species –¬†Ursus maritimus

  1. There are five other species in the genus Ursus: brown bears, American black bears, Asiatic black bears, sun bears, and sloth bears. Species can be distinguished by size, build, coloration, and habitat.
  2. Ursus maritimus¬†is Latin for “sea bear”.
Polar bear in the water

D. Fossil record

  1. The oldest known polar bear fossil is less than 100,000 years old. Polar bears probably developed during the Pleistocene era from an ancestral brown bear. Polar bears and brown bears are still closely related; when cross-bred, they produce fertile offspring.