Published: Tue, March 07, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Science Finally Answers Why Pandas Are Black And White: For Survival

Science Finally Answers Why Pandas Are Black And White: For Survival

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.

Pandas have a distinctive black and white pattern that sets them apart from other bears. He made a compelling case that zebras evolved stripes as a defense against biting flies in a book published in December, and has also investigated the colors of skunks and coconut crabs.

It's a question that has bedeviled kindergartners, and now apparently PhDs have the answer: Why do giant pandas have spots? Now, the same team of researchers that figured out why zebra have their stripes are proposing an explanation for pandas' unique markings. Then they matched the lightness and darkness of these regions to a range of behavioral and ecological factors to reveal their evolutionary objective. This enabled them to compare different regions of fur across the body to the dark and light colouring of 195 carnivore species and 39 bear subspecies, to which the giant panda is related. The white patches help the bear to camouflage in snowy areas, while the black patches helped the animal hide in rainforests. They reached a result after they had analyzed every part of a panda's body as an independent area. Their dark eye patches may help them recognise each other or signal aggression toward panda competitors, the study said. Scientists had earlier thought that zebras have two colors to camouflage from predators, but new research found this belief to be erroneous.

The second reason called out is communication, and this relates to the markings on the head of the animal.

What's fascinating is that the giant panda requires this convertible camouflage in the first place - for which we can thank the bear's taste for bamboo. For example, dark ears convey a sense of ferocity, as a warning to predators.; whereas the dark eye patches allow pandas to recognize each other.

The scientists suggest that this dual colouration stems from its poor diet of bamboo and inability to digest a broader variety of plants. Now when you look at a panda, it may seem that the poor animal is fat but unfortunately the panda still can not store enough fat to get them through the harsh winter months.

As for the second function served by the panda's fur, the scientists have noted that these mammals will use their black ears in order to discourage predators.

"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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