Researchers believe they have found the reason why giant pandas are black and white – a color combination rarely found in wild animals due to its inability to camouflage – and the reason seems to be their strict diet of bamboo.
Bamboo is remarkably devoid of nutrition, which means the giant panda must eat continuously. As they don’t pack on the winter weight like so many of their other bear brethren, they don’t hibernate. As an aside, there are two untruths that bears either hibernate or don’t hibernate. Bears go into a state where they do not require food or water for a long period of time, and they do drop their body temperature BUT not to the same degree (ugh, sorry) that a true hibernating animal does. True hibernators drop their core temps below freezing, at which point their brains no longer send any electrical impulses; they also have to awaken occasionally for snacks and water. Compared to that, bears are awake-ish but totally unmotivated to leave their den for sustenance. Sort of like you on the couch over the weekend; they know the television is on that stupid infomercial but they aren’t changing the channel, nor are they getting up for chips and a soda.
Back to the giant panda, who does NOT spend his weekend on the couch but instead needs to forage and chow down on bamboo all the time. The majority of the panda’s body is white, perfect for hiding in the snow. The legs are black, and that helps hide them in shady forest environs. The black on their ears, however, is to help demonstrate how very fierce they are to potential predators (and that’s no joke! they are fierce!) while the black spots around their eyes are to help them identify one another.
If you are a panda fan like I am, you might read that last part and think, “Wait! I thought pandas didn’t have any predators because they are gigantic (it’s even in their name!)!” Well, yes and no. Yes, their very large size does make them an intimidating lunch prospect, but that doesn’t mean a very feisty and very hungry leopard might not consider it. Truly though, it is the panda cubs that are considered quite vulnerable until they are over a year old, and until they are fully grown, pandas can be the target of jackals, yellow-throated marten (looks like a big ferret-y creature) and snow leopards.
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