Gender-ambiguous polar bears on ice

The San Diego Zoo polar bears are getting a big pile of ice to play in today. From the press release:

Kalluk, Tatqiq, and Chinook will have their own winter wonderland tomorrow, December 6! Snow Day at the Zoo, presented by WowWee AliveTM Cubs, brings mounds of shaved ice as a special treat for the Zoo’s polar bears. See the fun in person or on our Polar Bear Cam!

But don’t expect to be able to tell whether the bears are boys or girls.

Why is it so difficult to distinguish boy polar bears from girl polar bears? Because they’re so furry. The polar bear penis is similar to a dog’s: It is nublike, with a baculum (a bone) that extends when the animal is excited. But long hairs cover polar bears’ reproductive organs, making it hard to determine gender by sight alone. (Even scientists who observe polar bears having sex may find that fur obscures the penis.)

Yes, this entire post is an excuse to type “nublike.”

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4 Responses to Gender-ambiguous polar bears on ice

  1. J.P. says:

    Excuse me for my ignorance, you are a scientist and will be able to satisfy my curosity.
    Would it be of any interest to the average Inuit to know if the advancing polar bear is male or female?

  2. DNLee says:

    Yes, I heard this in NPR the other day…I guess it’s better than putting 2 males together. Or maybe not. They might have figured out the blunder sooner.

    Did you hear about the Berlin Polar Bear possibly being evicted. He could hang out with these 2 chickas.

  3. Karen James says:

    Sadly, sexing polar bears is becoming even more difficult for entirely different reasons:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/toxic-waste-creates-hermaphrodite-arctic-polar-bears-522350.html

  4. JP – Maybe this surveyor knows?

    I did hear about the sulky teenage polar bear. Apparently there a female bear in Germany for him to live with…if she’s really female.

    Karen – eeek!

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