Published: Tue, March 07, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Why are pandas black and white? Science may have an answer

Why are pandas black and white? Science may have an answer

But a study deconstructing the species' unique coloration proves that the giant panda has some form of survival mechanism, though it is not aggressive.

The problem is, pandas are rather unique; while contrasting stripes and spots are common across the animal kingdom, an outfit consisting of black stockings, black shirt, eye-spots, and dark ears is pretty rare.

"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", said lead author Tim Caro, professor at the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, University of California.

Researchers provide an explanation regarding why pandas have black and white patches. This plant isn't particularly packed with nutrients, and that means pandas have to forage in different areas if they want to keep eating.

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

Pandas are easily recognizable due to their black-and-white fur patterns, but we've never known what goal their colorization served.

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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. This enabled the team to compare different regions of fur across the giant panda's body to 195 other carnivore species and 39 bear subspecies. They reached a result after they had analyzed every part of a panda's body as an independent area.

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.

More compelling was a 2008 study in which two young pandas identified subtle differences in artificial eye-mask patterns.

The white parts of their bodies help them blend in with snow and the black parts help in the shade of the forest.

Keeping in mind that bamboo is found in small amounts and only in particular areas, panda bears need to be able to search for food in warm and dense rainforests or even in snowy, mountainous regions.

The study suggests that dual colouration helps them in their year-round travel across different habitat types, "from snowy mountains, to tropical forests". 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 researchers are guessing that the eyes and the ears may serve as a signal of aggression.

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