Panda Updates – Monday, August 5
Giant pandas are selective about their bamboo, but it is for a good reason. They have adapted to eat bamboo despite their carnivorous digestive system, so they need to make sure that the pieces they are consuming are giving them more energy than they are expending. They fully digest about 30 percent of the bamboo they consume, and depending on the time of year will culm (eat the outer layer) or eat leaves from the bamboo. There are several theories as to why giant pandas pick certain parts of the bamboo, but it is commonly believed that they are smelling for starch or protein content. Recent research argues that giant pandas, like other carnivores, get most of their energy from protein. This would explain why they have the digestive system of a carnivore, and why their ancestors’ transitioning to a bamboo-based diet isn’t as far-fetched as previously believed (bamboo has a decent amount of protein for being a grass). It’s definitely something interesting to think about! Yang Yang wasn’t as impressed when I broke the news to him; he continued his breakfast in the behind-the-scenes areas while we cleaned his habitat. If you’re a Panda Fan, I encourage you to look into the interesting research about pandas, their diets, and the behavior. For an animal that is so universally recognized, there isn’t an extensive amount of research on them. Scientists are always learning more and it’s always interesting to read!
Article cited: Sponheimer, M, et al. “Dietary Evolution: The Panda Paradox.” Current Biology, Cell Press, 3 June 2019.
Keeper II, Mammals
(photo by Danica W.)
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