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Scientists have discovered the function of the giant panda’s black-and-white markings.
A team of University of California scientists claimed that they have found the reason behind the fur pattern of giant pandas. They published their findings in the journal Behavioral Ecology on February 28, 2017.
According to the team, finding the purpose of the pandas’ markings was difficult because no other animal has the same patterns. The uniqueness of panda markings made comparison impossible. To solve this problem, the team analyzed each body part of the panda independently.
The team compared different areas of fur all over the giant panda’s body to the dark and light colors of 195 other carnivore species and 39 bear species. The team concluded that the giant panda’s colors have two functions: camouflage and communication.
The scientists theorized that white areas on the giant panda’s face, back, and belly work as camouflage from predators in snowy environments, while dark body parts help the giant panda conceal itself in forests. The animal’s black ears serve as a warning for predators, while black eye patches may help it recognize friends and scare competitors.
The scientists also theorized that the giant panda’s color is an outcome of its restricted diet. Pandas eat almost nothing else aside from bamboo, but they cannot completely digest bamboo and store it as fat. Therefore, pandas cannot hibernate during winter and must remain active throughout the year to look for more bamboo to eat. The pandas’ constant traveling through different environments such as snowy mountains and tropical forests may have resulted in the unique pattern they have.