Panda Updates – Wednesday, July 7
Something that never ceases to amaze me is how strong a giant panda’s bite is. A study that was published in the Chinese Journal of Ecology took a look at the bite force of 151 carnivores. And the giant panda ranked number 5, only behind lions, brown bears, tigers, and polar bears. Even though they primarily eat vegetation, they still very much have the teeth of a carnivore. And they definitely have the bite force to back up those teeth. If you have ever come across bamboo in your life, and odds are that most of you probably have, then you would know how strong bamboo as a plant really is. Most of the bamboo we offer to the pandas, I know I would have to work hard at to break at all. And the pandas are able to bite through it like we can bite through a stick of celery. But how are they able to do this? If you watch them while they are eating, you can actually see some of the physiology behind it in action.
When you watch a giant panda chewing, you may be able to see that it looks like its ears wiggle and its eyes seem to move in and out a little while it eats. This is because giant pandas have massive jaw muscles that stretch all the way up their heads and attach between their ears, right at the middle of their heads. If you see what looks like a bump in the middle of the head as a giant panda chews, that is a ridge of bone known as a saggital crest that sits at the top of the skull. This is where those jaw muscles attach. It’s pretty cool to be able watch those muscles work! Next time you are watching the pandas eating, see if you can spot that crest as they chew (or take a look at those big carnivore canine teeth!).
Keeper I, Mammals