Panda Updates – Friday, November 6
People often ask us how to tell Ya Lun and Xi Lun apart, and our go-to answer is to look at their eye markings. Xi Lun has very distinctive eye markings which turn upward in the bottom corners, much like “cat-eye” makeup. This is very useful to us, but there’s a chance it is also useful to giant pandas! A 2008 study sought to discover whether giant pandas have the cognitive skills to tell the difference between the eye markings of other pandas. They began with shapes that were fairly easy to discriminate between and slowly made the challenges more difficult. Eventually, the two juvenile giant pandas in the study were being asked to tell the difference between shapes that closely mimicked giant panda eye markings that were only subtly different from one another, and they excelled! What’s more, they remembered these discriminations when tested again six and twelve months later!
This doesn’t necessarily mean that giant pandas use the eye markings to tell each other apart, but this experiment shows that it is possible. There could be many purposes behind the coloring of those famous panda faces, and every study adds to our knowledge about them. This November, I am thankful for all of the amazing the scientists who seek out knowledge and expand our understanding of the world’s amazing creatures!
Paper Citation: Dungl, E., Schratter, D., & Huber, L. (2008). Discrimination of face-like patterns in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122(4), 335–343. https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7036.122.4.335
Keeper III, Mammals