Why are giant pandas black and white?

  • Why are giant pandas black and white?

Why are giant pandas black and white?

The goal of the pandas' black limbs, black ears, black eye patches and white bodies was a particular curiosity to these scientists at the University of California at Davis and California State University at Long Beach.

After scouring thousands of photos - and experiencing vast difficulty in trying to figure out pandas due to a lack of similar species for comparison - the team chose to deconstruct the creature by treating every part of the panda's body as an independent area of study. Now, the same team of researchers that figured out why zebra have their stripes are proposing an explanation for pandas' unique markings.

It's a question that has bedeviled kindergartners, and now apparently PhDs have the answer: Why do giant pandas have spots?

The authors of a new study on the panda think they might have the answer: Panda patterns serve as a combination of communication and camouflage, a group of biologists wrote recently in the journal Behavioral Ecology. Since they don't hibernate during the winter, finding bamboo in snowy climates means they need to blend in, hence the white fur on the face, neck, tummy and posterior.

The question "why do pandas have black and white colors?" has been on the minds of scientists for decades.

So researchers from the University of California, Davis, and California State University, Long Beach, worked together to pull apart the panda's patterns and match each body part separately with a comparable critter.

Researchers compared different areas of fur on the animal's body with the colouring of 195 other carnivore species and 39 bear subspecies - relatives of the giant panda.

Unlike their more carnivorous cousins, pandas rely heavily on a vegetarian diet of bamboo shoots, which although plentiful within their habitat, isn't the easiest meal to digest. "The breakthrough in the study was treating each part of the body as an independent area". And that zebras have two distinctive white and black stripes to actually help it ward off irritating flies. They help it hide in the shade. The researchers are guessing that the eyes and the ears may serve as a signal of aggression. Pandas are very sweet and seem playful. Now when you look at a panda, it may seem that the poor animal is fat but unfortunately the panda still can not store enough fat to get them through the harsh winter months. While their dark ears may help to indicate ferocity, as a warning to predators, the dark patches around the eyes help in individual recognition.

"This really was a herculean effort by our team, finding and scoring thousands of images and scoring more than 10 areas per picture from over 20 possible colours", said Ted Stankowich, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, in the US.