Thursday, February 26, 2009
Giant Panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, the latin translating to cat-like (ailuro) foot (poda) black (melano) white (leuca). Go figure. This is a rare picture of a female panda with nursing cub. They are normally fairly shy and nurse out of sight. This cub's getting big and it's about time for it to get on with a diet of Bamboo, but apparently, not just yet.
The Giant Panda was once thought to be related to raccoons but has since been moved back to (drum roll....) the Bear family (Ursidae) based upon recent molecular studies. Maybe looks aren't all that deceiving after all. Their diet is 99% Bamboo in their native China although they may eat fruit, meat, eggs, etc. opportunistically. They eat constantly and do not hibernate, likely because their diet of Bamboo does not allow them to store up sufficient fat to hibernate through the winter. Apparently, they still have the less efficient digestive system of a carnivore/omnivore (as opposed to a cow, for example) and compensate for the digestive inefficiency by eating huge amounts of bamboo and by limiting their energy expenditure. No Kung Fu Panda here!