Panda bears are beautiful, scary, massive creatures that are known to be quite dangerous. However, when you have a look at their diet, you will be at least surprised to find out that this large animal is, in fact, vegetarian.
It is true, pandas don’t eat meat and this has somehow puzzled scientists, given the fact that they seem to be equipped to be carnivorous.
Still, it seems that the white and black bears are able to survive on plants. A team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences have looked into that and reached the conclusion that these animals are able to maintain their energy levels by saving it as much as possible.
Thus, they would consume bamboo and waste as little energy as possible on their everyday activities:
“Pandas save a lot of energy by being frugal with the energy they spend on physical activity,” said lead study author John Speakman.
Nevertheless, the author of the study published in the journal Science also states that the scarce physical activity is not the only contributing factor to their slow metabolism. It was reported that panda bears have a much lower metabolism than we do, even when we are completely sedentary.
This low metabolic rate is also associated with decreased levels of thyroid hormones. This is due to a genetic mutation that was found in panda’s thyroid hormone synthesis, which is a unique feature of this animal.
Thus, it seems that a mutation of the DUOX2 gene is the one involved in the synthesis of that particular thyroid hormone.
Because the thyroid gland is the one responsible for the control of metabolic processes, it is also in charge of energy levels. And while this whole process reminds us of our own system, pandas are very well adapted to their diet and manage to do just fine with quite few calories taken from plants.
According to other experts, pandas’ metabolism evolved in time in order to adapt to a variety of stages that they had to go through. Therefore, their organs diminished as well and started to match their need for less energy.
Image Source: earthsky