Why are giant pandas black and white?

"Understanding why the giant panda has such striking colouration has been a long-standing problem in biology that has been hard to tackle because virtually no other mammal has this appearance, making analogies hard", said Tim Caro, a professor at the University of California, Davis in the US. In 2014, he published a paper in the journal Nature Communications, which suggested the goal of zebras' black and white stripes could be to deter flies, including the horsefly and tsetse, from biting.

Giant Pandas are cute looking creatures that have been the source of inspiration for countless movies for long.

Till now, researchers had faced difficulty in finding the reason behind their unique colour pattern; however, now they have come up with an answer. They reached a result after they had analyzed every part of a panda's body as an independent area.

Prior to investigating the giant panda's unique fur pattern, University of California Davis Wildlife Biology Professor Tim Caro first studied why zebras have black and white stripes and how the unique pattern actually benefits the animals.

If things are observed from this point of view it can be said that the panda has two colors so that it can blend into two different environments.

The white parts of their bodies help them blend in with snow and the black parts help in the shade of the forest. New research has been published relating to giant pandas, undertaken by University of California, Davis, and California State University, Long Beach. To reveal what part of the fur designated what, scientists compared a panda's pattern to the pattern of other 195 carnivore species and 39 bear subspecies which were related to the Panda.

The study suggests that dual colouration helps them in their year-round travel across different habitat types, "from snowy mountains, to tropical forests".

On the other hand, the black markings on the panda's ears and around its eyes are used not for camouflage, but for communication.

Pandas, unlike other bears, can not slumber through the winter. Because they cannot digest a wider variety of plants, they can never store enough energy to go into hibernation.

Those soulful panda eyes were hypothesised to help the animals communicate with one another, or perhaps serve as a way to signal aggression to a competitor, while their ears could perform similar "stay away, I'm angry" signalling to predators.

"This really was a herculean effort by our team, finding and scoring thousands of images and scoring more than 10 areas per picture from over 20 possible colours", said Ted Stankowich, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, in the US. Pandas are very sweet and seem playful.

  • Tracy Ferguson