Giant pandas are famous for being lazy and eating bamboo all day long. Now researchers have discovered how these two things are related. Scientists have always wondered how pandas survive on bamboo in spite of their large size. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology (Beijing) have found out that the bears’ bodies are especially adapted to save energy. More details about the research were published in the journal Science.
The study showed that pandas do not obtain all the energy they need from bamboo. As a consequence their metabolic rates are low. So the animals do not lose as much energy as an animal their size would normally do.
For the study the researchers used GPS to track three wild pandas and five captive ones. They also injected the animals with doubly labeled water, which is a substance enriched with isotopes, oxygen and hydrogen. Afterwards during the following two weeks the scientists took blood samples in order to check the rate at which the bears eliminated the substance.
The research revealed that the captive pandas used approximately 38 percent of the energy which is normally used by an animal of that size, whereas the wild pandas used approximately 45 percent of the normal amount of energy. On average the bears burned roughly 1,100 kilocalories every day, meaning very little when taking into account the fact that the giant panda has around 200 pounds.
In order to obtain all the energy they need in one day pandas have to eat around 83 pounds of bamboo every day. This is due to the fact that bamboo is low in calories and high in fiber. Pervious research has showed that actually pandas digest only 17 percent of the bamboo which they consume in a single day.
The bears’ metabolism is highly responsible for this. The animal has a series of physiological and morphological adaptations which helps keeping the energy consumption at a record-breaking low level. Fuwen Wei, the lead author of the study, explained that besides the fact that the bears moved less than 66 feet an hour and spend more than half of the day sleeping they also have very small internal organs such as the brain, kidneys and liver which help the animals too keep the energy consumption low.
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