Published: Tue, March 07, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Scientists Explain Why Pandas Have Black and White Patches

Scientists Explain Why Pandas Have Black and White Patches

The distinctive black and white pattern of giant pandas emerged as a result of two key survival needs - to hide themselves away in a variety of environments and to communicate aggression to predators and other pandas.

Scientists have found out that the black patches of a panda are not always black for the same reason.

Study lead author Tim Caro, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology said, "Understanding why the giant panda has such striking coloration has been a long-standing problem in biology that has been hard to tackle because virtually no other mammal has this appearance, making analogies hard". Now, the same team of researchers that figured out why zebra have their stripes are proposing an explanation for pandas' unique markings. The animals are at risk from deforestation and they are described as a conservation reliant vulnerable species, which means they require continuing species-specific wildlife management intervention.

Giant Pandas are cute looking creatures that have been the source of inspiration for countless movies for long.

Scientists have a theory regarding why pandas have black and white patches.

After this, the team compared the fur in different areas of the panda's body to the coloration of other animals, including 195 carnivorous species and 39 bear subspecies, which it is related to, and they determined that the main function of the panda's coloration and pattern have to do with concealing itself from predators. "The breakthrough in the study was treating each part of the bodies an independent area". Scientists want to determine why pandas are so different. Pandas rely heavily on a vegetarian diet (bamboo shoots) which may be plentiful in their habitat but it isn't exactly the easiest meal to digest.

It's a well-established fact that unlike their bear cousins, panda bears do not hibernate during the winter mostly due to the fact that they don't manage to accumulate enough fat on their body since their diet is based on bamboo. Some patterns provide camouflage, others help attract mates, while they can also help to regulate body temperature.

These comparisons helped the researchers find that most of the panda - its face, neck, belly, rump - is white to help it hide in snowy habitats.

Needless to say that whatever the reason, Pandas are still just as charming. The arms and legs are black and this can help panda hide in shade, the research team informed in the paper published this week. But there were few relationships between eye markings and an environment's brightness - which is to suggest that dark patches around the panda eyes did not come about as a defense to the sun along the lines of National Football League eyeblack. While their dark ears may help to indicate ferocity, as a warning to predators, the dark patches around the eyes help in individual recognition.

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