Toronto: Polar bears are known to be excellent swimmers, and they may also be superb divers, suggest scientists who observed a polar bear staying under water for over three minutes, setting a new record.
The dive that lasted three minutes and 10 seconds shattered the previous known record by about two minutes.
The polar bear's ability to hold its breath for so long could be a sign that these animals are evolving to survive in a rapidly changing habit, researchers said.
Global warming is leading to a dearth of sea ice, meaning polar bears have less ice on which to hunt, they said.
Researchers were studying polar bears in a Norwegian archipelago located between continental Norway and the North Pole, when they witnessed the record breaking underwater swim, 'Live Science' reported.
Polar bears are known to dive for food, said Ian Stirling from the University of Alberta in Canada, and Rinie van Meurs, a naturalist and polar expedition leader from the Netherlands, who noted in their report that these animals typically stay submerged for about three to 30 seconds when diving.
Sometimes, they will stay submerged longer to look for kelp, but the longest recorded kelp dive lasted only about 1 minute, 12 seconds, they said.
The bear, which the researchers observed from the deck of a ship, slipped into the water and started swimming towards the seals before diving below the surface to continue what the researchers called his "aquatic stalk."
After spending more than three minutes underwater, the polar bear "exploded" out of the water and propelled itself halfway onto the ice floe, right in front of where one of the seals was resting.
Although the seal got away, the hunt was recorded on video, allowing the researchers to confirm that the polar bear had not come up for air before lunging onto the ice.
The study was published in the journal Polar Biology.