Study: Why giant pandas are white and black

  • Scientists have analysed rare photos showing giant pandas in their natural habitats.
  • They found that dark patches helped them blend in better with trees, and white with the snow.
  • Its outline is also broken up by its highly visible boundaries at long distances

The giant panda is a distinctive creature in the animal kingdom, with its distinctive black and white markings and cuddly facial features.

Researchers now know why giant pandas developed these unusual colours. It is all due to camouflage.

Experts at the University of Bristol claim that the dark patches aid pandas in blending in with tree trunks while the lighter patches enable them to camouflage themselves against snow patches.

Professor Nick Scott-Samuel was the author of the study.

“The giant panda is quite well camouflaged from a predator’s point of view.”

Experts from the University of Bristol say that the dark patches help pandas to blend in with tree trunks, while their lighter patches allow them to camouflage against patches of snow

Experts at the University of Bristol believe that the dark patches help pandas blend in with tree trunks and their lighter patches allow them camouflage against snow patches.

Giant pandas 

Pandas live primarily in temperate forests high above the mountains of southwest China. They eat mainly bamboo and are almost entirely dependent on it. 

They need to consume between 26 and 84 pounds of it each day, depending on which part of the bamboo they are eating. 

They use their larger wrist bones, which act as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is approximately the same size as a stick butter. However, females can reach 200 pounds and males can reach 300 pounds. 

Despite their large size, these bears are great tree climbers.

Source: WWF 

Most mammals are brown-grey in colour, but a few animals have black and white colorings, including skunks, pandas, and orcas.

To understand why giant pandas have these markings, the team used stateof-the-art image analysis techniques to analyze rare photos taken in the natural environment of giant pandas.

The analysis revealed the black patches mixed in with dark shades and tree trunks while the white patches match leaves and snow.

According to the team, the pale brown tones blend well with the ground color.

Professor Tim Caro, the author of the study, said: “I knew we were onto something when our Chinese colleagues shared photographs from the wild and I couldn’t see the giant panda.

“If I couldn’t see it with my good primate eye, it meant that would-be predators of carnivorous animals might not be able too. 

“It was just a matter of demonstrating that objectively.”

Researchers also discovered that pandas used disruptive colouration, a form camouflage in the animal’s outline that breaks up at greater distances.

Dr Ossi Nkelainen, the researcher, said that the rare photographic evidence allowed them to see the giant panda in its natural environment. 

‘With the help the state-of the-art image analysis, it was possible to treat these photos as if the pandas were seen by their predatory surrogates using applied Vision Modelling techniques. Also, it was possible to examine their disruptive coloration. 

‘Comparative data completely disprove the myth of giant pandas being conspicuously visible in their natural habitat. 

The analysis revealed that the black patches blended in with dark shades and tree trunks, while the white patches match foliage and snow

The analysis revealed the black patches blended in with dark colors and tree trunks, while white patches match foliage or snow.

The Yangtze Basin region of China is the primary habitat for the panda. 

However, pandas are considered to be vulnerable and only 1,800 of them remain in the wild. 

WWF explained that “Infrastructure development (such roads, dams, and railways), is increasingly fragmenting panda populations and isolating them from finding new bamboo forests or potential mates.

‘Forest loss also reduces the bamboo supply that pandas need to survive. 

“The Chinese government has established more 50 panda reserves but only 67% of wild panda populations live in them. 54% of their habitat area is protected.