FunNature & AnimalWhy are giant pandas black and white? A new...

Why are giant pandas black and white? A new study answers the question

Did you know that most of the 5,000 species of mammals, unlike the many quirky species of birds, tend to be gray or brown? There are some well-known exceptions, such as killer whales or zebras, for example.

However, possibly one of the most famous species of all is the giant panda . It is true that scientists already had a preliminary idea of why they had their peculiar markings. But a group of researchers from the University of Bristol and the Chinese Academy of Sciences decided to confirm the reason for this characteristic and mysterious pattern.

It is true that, seen up close in a zoo, the giant panda is a striking and curious combination of a white bear with black front legs, shoulders, and back legs , as well as a face with black fur around the ears and back. the eyes.

While white-backed carnivores tend to be found in cold, snowy environments, those with dark colored bodies, primarily legs and shoulders, are found in shady habitats.

Taking these characteristics into account, experts began to suspect that the coat could actually be an adaptation to camouflage itself in different environments .

Today, giant pandas are confined to isolated forests in western China, where there are relatively few predators. Because of this, the study authors needed to confirm that camouflage was originally effective against the ancient predators of giant pandas from the days they spread throughout China to Vietnam.

To continue the analysis, the scientists used image analysis techniques to study black and white fur. And they discovered that this coloration would actually constitute a much more effective camouflage than one might think in its forest environment , making the giant panda a true master of camouflage.

For Professor Tim Caro, from the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, it all started with photographs of people immortalized in their natural environment. When viewing the snapshots, they couldn’t find the giant pandas in the images.

Due to this, and in order to go much further, the scholars analyzed the images with different techniques, considering different views. The analysis found that the black parts of the panda’s fur blended very well with shadows and tree trunks, while the white parts blended with snow and foliage .

This is how the researchers discovered that the mammal also played with another type of defensive camouflage, known as “disruptive coloration.” From a distance, the contrasts created by the black and white parts of the panda make its outlines increasingly difficult to achieve.

This phenomenon appeared even more accentuated in the models that considered cat and canine visions and, therefore, those of possible predatory pandas.

Finally, when carrying out a comparative analysis with other species, the team of researchers concluded that the ability of the giant panda to blend in with its environment was comparable to that of other animals traditionally considered well camouflaged .

The study also showed that the mud that often soils its fur would help to further strengthen the camouflage, so from the most realistic point of view of a predator, the giant panda would be quite well camouflaged.

Some animals change the color of their fur according to the seasons; for example, they are white in winter and brown in summer. But the panda is not capable of doing it, so the black and white color of its fur would be a combination of tones to help it blend in with the snowy environment in winter and hot in summer.

Giant pandas are not very exposed to predators, except humans. But babies are still vulnerable to attack by black bears or jackals.

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