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Last Updated: Tuesday November 30 2010 07:25 GMT

Polar bears piggyback their cubs

Polar bear carrying a cub

Polar bears have been spotted carrying their cubs on their backs while they swim through icy waters.

Scientists think the bears have started carrying their cubs because they're having to swim longer distances because the Arctic ice is melting.

By carrying their cubs on their backs the bears keep their babies warm and dry, out of the icy water.

Scientists have been tracking polar bears since 2007, and say the bears can swim hundreds of miles each year.

It's thought this is the first time they've been seen carrying their young on their backs like this.

Geoff York, from charity WWF, said: "As the Arctic ice continues to melt, it is likely that polar bears are going to have to swim longer distances.

"Data from tagged bears near Alaska has indicated swims of 350-400 miles in the past four years.

"If polar bear cubs are forced to cover these distances, then it is vital for them to behave in a way that minimises heat loss."