Polar Bear Food Chain

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  • 0:00 Definition of a Food Chain
  • 1:13 Polar Bear Ecosystem
  • 1:38 Polar Bear Food Chain
  • 2:58 Importance
  • 3:27 Threats to Polar Bears
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on the food chain of a polar bear. In this lesson, we will cover some facts about polar bears and the ecosystem they live in, as well as what a food chain is and what the polar bear's food chain looks like.

Definition of a Food Chain

When I think of the cold and ice, I usually also think of cold dwelling animals, like penguins, seals and polar bears. These fluffy white creatures live in some of the coldest temperatures on Earth! Today, we'll learn what polar bears eat and how they keep their frigid ecosystem in check. To do this, we first need to learn some basics about food chains.

A food chain is a diagram showing the linear transfer of energy between different organisms. In other words, food chains show what eats what in a particular ecosystem. The food is the energy transferred. Food webs are similar, but they show how many food chains in an ecosystem relate to each other. Food chains and food webs always start with producers, organisms that make their own energy. Usually these are green plants. Next come the herbivores, also known as primary consumers. These eat the producers. Next, secondary consumers eat the primary consumers. Finally, tertiary consumers, are the top predators and eat secondary and primary consumers. These are very important and keep the ecosystem in balance. What you're looking at right now is a diagram of the players in a food chain.

Food chains show how energy is transferred between species.
food chain diagram

Ecosystem of a Polar Bear

To understand the food chain of a polar bear, we need to know some things about polar bears. Polar bears live on the sea ice of the Arctic, the most Northern region of the globe. They do not live in Antarctica, as some may think. Polar bears are excellent swimmers and have thick layers of fat and fur to keep them warm in sub-zero climates. Although cuddly, polar bears are fierce predators, as we will learn in their food chain.

Polar Bear Food Chain

Polar bears are tertiary consumers, meaning they eat other secondary and primary consumers. Let's take a look at what organisms provide energy for polar bears. The polar bear's first choice of food is the delicious ringed and bearded seals. Seals, in general, have thick layers of fat that are rich in the calories polar bears need to keep themselves warm. As you can see on screen now, a ringed seal pup navigates the ice.

Ringed seal pup.
ringed seal pup

If seals are unavailable, polar bears will go after larger prey, such as beluga whales and even baby walruses. In desperate situations though, they will eat just about anything, including reindeer, fish, and birds.

If we continue on with our food chain after seals, the secondary consumer, we get to the primary consumers, which are the food for the seals. Seals eat fish, like the Arctic cod, as well as microscopic organisms such as zooplankton. Zooplankon are primary consumers and eat tiny producers called phytoplankton. You can remember the difference between these two organisms because the zoo contains animals, so the zooplankton are the animals and the phytoplankton are the plants. Phytoplankton are very important for the entire ocean ecosystem. There are billions of phytoplankton in the oceans that make up the base of all food chains and food webs.

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