Scientists discover why pandas are black and white
07 March, 2017, 00:25 | Author: Lorena Waters
Tim Caro, the lead author of the study and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, claimed that it was hard for them to determine why the panda bear has this pattern since no other mammals have it.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and California State University, Long Beach have published a research paper detailing the reason behind distinct black and white color pattern of giant pandas.
For some time now, biologists have been trying to unlock the secrets behind the panda's black and white fur.
Till now, researchers had faced difficulty in finding the reason behind their unique colour pattern; however, now they have come up with an answer. Pandas feed exclusively on bamboo shoots, and they do not breed as frequently as other species - putting them on the endangered list for extinction until recently. But since giant pandas' survival isn't dependent on making humans go weak in the knees, the team looked further into the function of the markings on the head.
The white parts of their bodies help them blend in with snow and the black parts help in the shade of the forest.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and California State University (CSU), Long Beach, compared different regions of the giant panda's body to the coloring of 195 carnivore species and 39 related bear subspecies, according to a statement by the University of California, Davis. "The breakthrough in the study was treating each part of the bodies an independent area". Their dark eye patches may help them recognise each other or signal aggression toward panda competitors, the study said. A few years back the same team had argued that the stripes on zebra confused flying insects and hence protecting the animal from biting flies.
The markings on its head, however, are to communicate. Although there have been many theories surrounding the mammal's fur, none of the could account for the fact that the panda is the only bear species who has this unique feature.
The dual colour combination arises from its poor diet of bamboo and inability to digest a wider variety of plants.
However, their eye and ear markings serve the objective of communication. Which means that unlike other bear species, they can't store enough fat for the winter months and have to remain active throughout the year to satisfy their energy needs. 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 colors", said Dr. Stankowich in the statement.
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