Polar bears aren't actually white and more amazing facts about Arctic animals who need your help
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Sierra Club

It's hard out there for an Arctic animal.

The Arctic Circle is one of the last intact ecosystems on the planet to be mostly unaffected by industrialization (so far). But between the wind and the cold and the encroaching industrialization of the Arctic region, things are pretty rough above 66 degrees north latitude.

That's exactly what makes these animals so remarkable. Adorableness aside (so much adorableness), these majestic critters are survival experts, built to tough out the most extreme conditions. But the looming threat of Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic oil drilling might be the one challenge they can't overcome.


So while we celebrate their utter cuteness — which is of course important — let's not forget that they're also Mother Nature's Arctic BAMFs, but it's up to us to keep 'em around.

Here they are, from the smallest to the, erm, not-so-small.

Lemmings

Most people think lemmings are the opposite of survivalists, thanks to Disney and a certain addictive video game. But lemmings are actually tough little creatures. They're decent swimmers, and they have some incredible migratory patterns that continue to boggle scientists with their dramatic seasonal fluctuations. Rather than having a reputation for mass suicide, these creatures ought to be known for being able to endure whatever nature throws their way.


Photo by kgleditsch/Flicker.

Ice seals

There are all kinds of ice seals in the Arctic. Harp seals probably think they're pretty fancy because their scientific name means "ice-lover from Greenland." But that doesn't intimidate the bearded seals; they only get annoyed when people point out that what they have are actually mustaches not beards. Meanwhile, the ribbon seals pretty much just keep to themselves, floating alone on patches of ice. Maybe because they're all self-conscious about how they're the only seals born with a weird air sack and scientists don't understand what it's for.

But all of the ice seals can agree on one thing: They'd really like people to stop killing them and stealing their fur.

"Draw me like one of your French seals." Photo by Virginia State Parks/Flickr.

Walruses

Blubbery buddies. Mustachioed mammals. Kind-of-like-seals-but-totally-different. Whatever you wanna call 'em, walruses are incredibly social. So social, in fact, that their mating rituals are basically giant, violent, sing-song-y orgies. And if that weren't enough to make a shy walrus feel self-conscious, it turns out that walrus society is also very judgmental about tusk size. Which makes it that much more insulting when humans hunt them for their ivory.

On the bright side, it's a good thing walruses are used to close quarters because they've been making like lemmings and moving en masse thanks to the rapidly melting landforms they once called home.

Knowing what we now know, I realize this could very well be Walrus porn. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Polar bears

In addition to being behind the most oft-repeated complaint about the TV show "Lost"(DHARMA brought them to the island to experiment. End of the story. AARRGH!) — polar bears are also lying to you about their color. I know what you're thinking: "Uhh, pretty sure polar bears are white there, Mr. Dunn. That's how they blend in with the snow and stuff ... DUH." Polar bears have black skin and transparent fur that allows them to blend in with their background.

I understand if this leaves you feeling betrayed, but that's no reason to let polar bears succumb to extinction. It's not their fault they tricked us with nature's gifts!

A totally-not-white polar bear chillin' in what I assume is the pool at the palatial Hollywood estate he bought with all that residual cash he made from "Lost." Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Bowhead whales

This cuddly fella has the thickest blubber layer among all whales and can live for more than 200 years. Historically, bowhead whales were a resource for the survival of the Iñupiat people in Northern Alaska. But once the commercial whaling industry hit the scene, the number of bowhead whales plummeted. Thanks to conservation efforts that began in earnest in the mid-1900s, their current population is in pretty good shape.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for blue whales.


Photo by Bering Land Bridge National Preserve/Flickr.

But all of these adorable and majestic creatures are in danger right now, along with the environment they call home.

You're probably already familiar with the disastrous fallout of BP's oil drilling errors in the Gulf of Mexico. The exact same thing is in store for the Arctic Circle if Royal Dutch Shell is allowed to continue on their current path. Even in the unlikely event that an oil spill doesn't occur, the mere presence of man-made industrialization would have dire consequences for this otherwise pristine haven of nature. At the rate we're going, we don't need any more help eradicating the Arctic.

So let's not be like our incorrect perception of the lemming. Let's stop ourselves from walking blindly towards our own demise. Take a stand. Signing a petition is good for our adorable Arctic friends, and it might just put a little (transparent) hair on your chest.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less