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Why do giant Pandas eat bamboo rather than meat

(People's Daily Online)    16:05, February 28, 2018

Chinese scientist have made progress in revealing more details of giant pandas feeding habits and why they eat different varieties of bamboo rather than meat although their teeth and the construction of digestive tube is similar to carnivores, reported on Feb. 26.

Despite having more physical characteristics suitable for eating bamboos, including more developed molars when compared alongside other carnivores as well as a relatively larger head, pandas cannot absorb energy by digesting cellulose as well as herbivores.

However, they do better in digesting starch than other carnivores, and they usually choose the starchiest part of bamboo trees for consumption, according to a recent survey conducted by Zhang Wenping who is a researcher at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Science and Technology Daily reported on Feb. 25.

The research paper, “Age-associated microbiome shows the giant panda lives on hemicelluloses, and not on cellulose”, has been published on the ISME Journal.

By analyzing fecal matter from giant pandas, it was confirmed that giant pandas can only obtain energy from starch, hemicelluloses and pectin in bamboos.

In addition, the survey reveals why giant pandas choose bamboos as their staple food, indicating that bamboos, widely distributed in the wild, are easy for the bears to obtain, and they contains more starch than other woody plants.

Also, giant pandas consume little energy each day, indicating that their relatively heavy weight can be maintained by just feeding on bamboo.

Giant pandas have evolved with more than 2 million years of history in which they have feed on bamboo. Previous gene sequencing research also shows that the creature lost the gene T1R1 in the process of evolution and, therefore, started to eat bamboo. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Bianji, Wu Chengliang)

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