Why don't polar bears eat penguins?

  | James Innes

Why don't polar bears eat penguins?

Alternative and related questions:

Why do butterflies generally come out during the day and moths generally come out at night?

The meaning behind the question:

You might think this question is along the same lines as question 23, “If there was a monkey hanging from a chandelier, how would you get it down?” However, technically, this is actually a general knowledge question. Polar bears don’t eat penguins because polar bears live in the Arctic and penguins live in the Antarctic – a very long way away! However, in asking this sort of question, the interviewer doesn’t really expect many people to get the right answer – and they don’t necessarily care too much if they do. They’re more interested in how you think your answer through – so, yes, unless you know the ‘correct’ answer, this question is indeed similar to the previous question.

Your answer:

“Because they can’t get the wrappers off.”? Well, that would certainly be one possible answer. Let’s face it – you’re probably not a zoologist and this is one occasion where demonstrating a sense of humour – not to mention some lateral thinking – wouldn’t do you any harm. I certainly know of at least one candidate who answered in this fashion. However, assuming you don’t know the correct answer nor are you a budding comedian, the best answer to give is along the same lines as the previous question – demonstrate your ability to analyse the situation and identify possible theories.


I’m afraid I’ll have to admit that biology isn’t one of my strong points! I do enjoy watching documentaries but I haven’t seen one yet which would give me the answer to this question. I can think of a number of possible hypotheses – maybe penguins are too small for a polar bear to bother with and they stick to larger prey, maybe polar bears aren’t fast enough to catch a penguin, perhaps there’s something toxic about penguins – some form of defence mechanism, maybe polar bears live and hunt inland but penguins spend most of their time in the water or at the water’s edge. I obviously don’t know for sure – but these would be my possible ideas. Am I close?

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