Despite being related, the panda bear and polar bear live in different ecosystems. The panda lives in mountainous and rainy forests in central China and eats mostly bamboo. Polar bears live on flat ice in the Arctic Circle and eat mostly seals and birds.
Both have specific adaptions that allow them to survive according to their diet and ecosystem.
For example, the panda’s pseudo-thumb improves its grip and manipulation of bamboo. Moreover, a polar bear is a better swimmer than the panda bear, which is pivotal considering polar bears live around water and ice.
The giant panda evolved separately to the rest of the bears some 25 million years ago. The other seven species of bears diverged from each other around 12 million years ago.
Summary Table – Pandas vs Polar Bears
|Polar Bear||Panda Bear|
|1. Strength (Bite Strength)||1,235 psi||292 psi|
|2. Size (Standing on 2 Legs)||Up to 10 feet||Up to 7 feet|
|3. Diet||Carnivores. Eats Seals.||Herbivores. Eats Bamboo.|
|4. Habitat||Arctic Ice Caps||Chinese Bamboo Forests|
|5. Population||22,000 – 31,000||1,800|
|6. Conservation Status||Vulnerable||Vulnerable|
Panda Bear vs Polar Bear
Pandas are strong, but they’re not stronger than polar bears. Still, pandas shouldn’t be underestimated.
Pandas are more dangerous than they look. According to this study, which looked at 151 carnivores, the panda was the 5th strongest, with a bite force of 1300 Newtons. Only the lions, grizzlies, tigers, and polar bears were before it.
They have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles which aren’t just great for crushing bamboo, but also for delivering nasty bites!
Solitary and peaceful by nature, pandas mostly avoid confrontation, but if they need to, they will fight back. Pandas grow on average up to 5 feet and weigh up to 350 pounds. Similar to polar bears, pandas are also able to swim (unlike most other bears) but don’t hibernate.
A panda may not be stronger than a polar bear but is capable to fight against most predators. Among the bear species, the grizzly and the polar bear are the strongest.
With a weight that can reach 1500 pounds, polar bears are massive and strong. What’s more, they can chomp down at around 1000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Polar bears are also excellent swimmers, although the marathon distances tend to be tiresome and burn up major calories
Polar bears are bigger than pandas and also weigh more. Pandas can’t stand a chance considering polar bears are the largest bear species and the biggest land carnivore globally.
This huge bear prowls the ice in search of seals-their preferred prey. They’re well-adapted for their frigid habitat with their thick fur and fat that keeps them warm, as well as the tiny bumps under their paws that prevent slipping.
Polar bears are great swimmers and are therefore often referred to as the “sea bear”. They depend on the ocean and its environment a lot and are the only bears classified as marine mammals.
Usually, they’re 3.5 to 5 feet tall at their shoulder when on all fours. However, adult polar bears may grow more than 10 feet when standing on their back legs. Males can weigh between 770 and 1300 pounds and the female ones are around half that size (between 330 and 650 pounds).
Pandas may be smaller than polar bears, but their size is similar to that of an American black bear (of course, this doesn’t include a tiny type of panda called the red panda).
They can grow between 2 and 3 feet at the shoulders on all fours. The males are larger than the females and can weigh up to 250 pounds in the wild whereas the females reach up to 220 pounds.
The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for millions of years. It’s a bear with a thick and wooly coat which helps it stay warm. Their large molars and strong jaws are excellent in crushing bamboo into tiny bits.
A panda usually eats while sitting upright in a pose that resembles how humans sit on the floor.
Panda bears are the only bears who are herbivores while polar bears are the only bears who are carnivores. All other bear species are omnivores.
The panda has evolved to almost exclusively eat bamboo. This is a function of their habitat, which is bamboo forests in China.
We can tell pandas rarely eat meat because their teeth have evolved to be blunt and they don’t have sharp canine teeth like other bears.
Because of their limited diet, pandas are confined to their bamboo forests. The panda’s bamboo forest habitat is threatened by development as well as climate change, which is pushing them further into the hills.
Polar bears mostly eat seals. They are not good runners so they wait on ice to ambush seals that jump out of the water. Because of their shrinking ice habitat, scientists are noticing polar bears eating bird eggs more often. This poses a threat to many bird colonies in the arctic.
Related: What Eats Pandas?
The habitats of pandas and polar bears differ a lot. However, both species have been faced with an increased risk of habitat loss.
Pandas live in temperate forests, up in the mountainous cool and wet forests of southwest China where they eat mostly bamboo. Interestingly, this bear has to consume around 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo daily.
A panda may climb as high as 13,000 feet to consume the higher slopes during summer. Despite appearing sedentary, pandas are highly skilled tree climbers!
According to National Geographic, thanks to conservation efforts and improved survey methods, the wild panda population has been on the rise. Now, hundreds of more pandas live in ZOOs and breeding centers.
Most of the science on pandas is done thanks to studying the ones in enclosures since their cousins from the wild are elusive and rare.
Polar bears live in the cold Arctic region on waters covered with ice.
They rely on the sea ice for food, as well as for breeding and resting.
Polar bears are very good swimmers and can keep up a pace of 6 mph thanks to paddling with their front paws and keeping their back legs like a rudder.
Their white fur helps them camouflage well in an environment that’s mostly white, although the coat doesn’t have white pigment-their skin is actually black and the hairs are hollow!
Unfortunately, there’s an ongoing threat to their habitat due to climate change and they’re classified as threatened species in the US as of 2008, according to WWF. What’s more, oil exploration, hunting, and industrial impact are a danger to this species.
Both the polar and panda bear species are considered vulnerable on the IUCN red list. There are an estimated 22,000 – 31,000 polar bears and 1,800 panda bears.
The panda was recently downgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the IUCN red list due to improving factors in China. The Chinese government has implemented protection measures and forest regeneration to encourage population growth as well as lending bears to zoos across Europe to try to increase the population. The most famous pair are held in Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.
Nevertheless, there are very few pandas left in the world, so their population is in a precarious situation. Much more work needs to be done to ensure their long-term survival.
The population of polar bears is divided into 19 subpopulations of which 60 percent are in Canada. The estimated number of polar bears in the wild is between 22,000 and 31,000.
Polar bears are significantly threatened by climate change. Their habitats are shrinking, forcing them into increasing conflict with humans. Efforts are in place in Canada to protect them from hunting and minimize contact with humans.
Panda bears and polar bears are part of the same family, but are very different, although both have been faced with issues like habitat loss and a decrease in population.
Although polar bears are bigger in size and stronger than panda bears, pandas shouldn’t be underestimated, considering they have a very strong bite, coming 5th in one study!
Polar bears are excellent swimmers while pandas are great climbers-all of these attributes have helped them adapt to their environments.
Pandas live up in the high mountainous regions in China while polar bears live in the cold Arctic region. Regardless of the similarities and differences between the two, one thing’s for sure: both species are great charismatic megafauna who deserve to be protected.
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