October 20, 2011

How Do Pandas Survive on Bamboo?

Rachel Kaufman, National Geographic


AP Photo

A new analysis of panda poop has finally answered an age-old question: How do giant pandas survive on a diet that's 99 percent bamboo when they have the guts of carnivores?

Plant-eating animals tend to have longer intestines to aid in digesting fibrous material, a trait the black-and-white bears lack.

What's more, when the giant panda's genome was sequenced in 2009, scientists found that the creature lacks the genes for any known enzymes that would help break down cellulose, the plant fibers found in bamboo and other grasses.

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TAGGED: Bacteria, Gut Flora, Bamboo, Pandas

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