Why Are Giant Pandas Black and White?
The giant panda’s graphic pattern has stumped biologists for years … now they have an answer.
Mother Nature is nothing if not clever, especially as evidenced in the beautiful ways that organisms evolve. Take the zebra and its stripes. Why does a zebra have stripes? As it turns out, the stripes help deter biting flies like horseflies and tsetse flies. Genius!
Most often, animals and their colors or patterns make sense – there’s not much mystery behind why an Arctic fox is white. But where does the beloved giant panda fit into this scheme? Aside from turning grown-ups into cooing blubbering mushes, what purpose do those cartoon-animal black and white patches serve?
This was the question put forth in a study by scientists from the University of California, Davis, and California State University, Long Beach, who determined that the giant panda’s distinct black-and-white markings have two functions: camouflage and communication.
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Photo credit: J. Patrick Fischer via Wikimedia Commons