What Does A Panda Eat ?


Why did the giant panda turn to this special diet ?


As detailed in the phase “Ancestors and History”, the fossils of Ailurarctos, the earliest known forefather of the giant panda that lived regarding 8 million years earlier (late Miocene), revealed that it lived near marshes and did not feed totally on bamboo.

A branch of Ailurarctos evolved right into Ailuropoda microta, a smaller sized type of the present-day large panda, however slightly larger than Ailuractos, which inhabited big locations in southwest, south, main and also northwest China. This population expansion concerning 3 million years back when A. microta arised coincided with the nutritional shift to bamboo.

The research study of fossils has shown that Ailuractos lufengensis stayed in marshes doing not have bamboo while A. microta fed generally on bamboo, as evidenced by skull and oral adaptations. At the time of A. microta, the environment was warm and moist, hence favouring the spread of bamboo woodlands.

It was just since the fantastic panda withdrew to a distinct environmental environment in the last phase of its advancement that it started to feed primarily on bamboos, which were bountiful, quickly accessible as well as offered all year round, and also this choice likewise made it feasible to prevent food competitors.

These aspects offer an ecological description for this change from a most certainly meat-eating diet plan to a significantly specialized diet regimen with bamboos inhabiting an increasingly vital part of its diet plan. However what do the genetics claim?


In December 2009, Chinese scientists announced that they had sequenced the genome of the large panda. More particular researches will follow, particularly to understand the system of the advancement of the huge panda’s diet by means of genes.

In particular, researchers have actually found that the huge panda has actually shed the preference capacity required to value meat. In mammals, there are five basic flavours that recognize foods and also their dietary worth: sweet, salted, sour, bitter and also umami (from a Japanese term meaning delicious). The latter flavour is produced by get in touch with of the receptors on the taste with the carboxyl ion of glutamic acid (glutamate), an amino acid that defines protein-rich foods such as meat or cheese. Among the 3 kinds of glutamic acid receptors, T1R1, is not useful in the huge panda due to anomalies in the matching genetics. Hence, the assumption of umami would certainly not be functional in the huge panda as a result of a genetic mutation, which would certainly clarify a minimum of partly why this ursid is not actually meat-eating even though it has all the enzymes for that. According to this theory, it would consequently have actually ended up being herbivorous by default.

Yet this theory is not so noticeable. Without a doubt, the estimated mutation day for this gene has to do with 4.2 million years ago. Nevertheless, the routine transition was steady and not immediate. It would have begun at the very least 7 million years ago (because Ailurarctos is understood to feed a minimum of partly on bamboo, as shown by the fossil teeth) as well as ended 2 to 2.4 million years back (the fossils uncovered during that time are very similar to those of the here and now giant panda, recommending that the change was finished during that time). Hence, a number of writers assume that the pseudogenesis of T1R1 would most likely be the outcome, not the reason, of the change in diet plan.

These exact same writers have shown that the metabolic system of dopamine is most likely deficient in the giant panda, which would certainly influence the reward system related to diet (dopamine acts positively on the brain, notably responsible for dependency phenomena; dopamine consequently plays a vital function in dietary behavior). The writers hypothesize that some bamboo active ingredients might help/compensate for catecholamine metabolic rate, specifically dopamine metabolic rate, therefore promoting the reward system related to diet. Therefore, the writers hypothesize that pandas have relied on bamboo to make up for this deficiency in the dopamine metabolic system; bamboo promotes dopamine metabolic rate and hence boosts the mind’s food-related reward circuit. More info is expected to find from evaluations of the chemical parts of bamboo and their results on the nerve system.

To day, numerous hypotheses have actually therefore been advanced to explain at the very least partially the large panda’s unique food choice, but none enable us to attest that it is the reason for this dietary transition.

Thus, to day, scientists do not know why the panda originally altered its diet.


Pandas and different bamboo species