But hold on, there’s something that’s not quite right about this picture.
Can you figure it out?
If you can, you’re one of the select few!
Let’s start with polar bears. While many people know them principally for their love of Coca-Cola and their fluffy, cuddly appearance, polar bears are a vital species for the health of the Arctic. These carnivorous bears are at the top of the food chain, mostly feeding on seals and scavenging the carcasses of whales.
While they are born on land, they spend so much of their life in and around the water near ice floes that scientists consider them marine mammals. Polar bears are also known as a “keystone species,” meaning that their health and survival is closely linked to that of their habitat.
As higher temperatures of recent years have led to the melting of polar ice, their diet and lifestyle have changed in a big way. As the World Wildlife Fund explains: “polar bears depend on sea ice for their existence and are directly impacted by climate change—serving as an important indicator species.”
Any clues from what we just learned about polar bears? The answer is hiding in plain sight. Perhaps you guessed that the problem with the picture is that polar bears and penguins wouldn’t be seen together because the former would have the latter for lunch?
Incorrect! In fact, penguins aren’t part of polar bears’ diets at all. Penguins’ main predators are leopard seals, along with sea lions and orca whales.
Of course, everybody knows penguins as the best-dressed birds in the world. Their famous combination of black and white patches makes them just like a gentleman dressed in a tuxedo on his way to an elegant soirée.
So now let’s look at penguins to see if knowing a little more about them can help us figure out what doesn’t work in the picture. There are many different species of penguins, 17 in total, which are spread out over a wide area, some of which can be found almost as far north as the equator.
Penguins are flightless birds that have evolved to withstand the freezing-cold temperatures of the Antarctic Ocean and the icebergs where they live. In fact, emperor penguins, the biggest and tallest species of penguin, breed during the winter, when temperatures range from –20°C (-4°F) going down to -50°C (- 58°F) at the peak of winter in July.
Wait a minute! July… winter in July. That doesn’t make any sense. Unless… now you’ve got it. The reason that the picture doesn’t work is that penguins and polar bears are quite literally “polar opposites.” Most penguins live near the South Pole in the Antarctic Ocean and the island chains surrounding it.
Meanwhile, polar bears live exclusively in the northerly reaches of the planet, in the Arctic Sea and near the North Pole (hence the Coca-Cola Christmas ad campaign).
Now that you’ve solved the puzzle, try it out on your friends and family and see how long it takes them to get it!