Scientists put polar bears on a treadmill to test how efficiently they walk

The results upended previous scientific thinking.

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Polar bears consume no more energy than similarly sized animals while walking, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The findings counters previous scientific thinking, based on studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Researchers trained bears at zoos in Portland, Oregon and San Diego to walk on horse treadmills inside a specially designed chamber that allowed them to more accurately measure the bears’ metabolism.

The discovery is important because of the bears’ high energy needs and because retreating Arctic sea ice is forcing the animals to travel further distances to hunt seals.