How Have Giant Pandas Adapted to Their Environment?

giant-pandas-adapted-environment Credit: harum.koh/CC-BY-SA 2.0

One of the most well-known adaptations of the giant panda is its sixth thumb. The giant panda evolved an extra thumb to improve its bamboo eating practices. With the extra thumb, it strips off the bamboo leaves to clean the shoots before eating both shoots and leaves.

To eat bamboo effectively, pandas evolved to have very strong jaws and teeth. Their molars are wide and flat to crush bamboo. Since bamboo is difficult to digest, pandas have evolved strong stomachs. However, only about one-fifth of what pandas eat is digested. To get all needed nutrients, pandas forage for food for 10 to 16 hours a day. The rest of the day they spend resting and sleeping to preserve energy.

Giant panda bears are also the only bears from a temperate climate that do not hibernate. Since their diet is less nutrient-filled then those of their counterparts, the giant panda must continuously look for food to avoid starving. Panda bears probably evolved to be primarily bamboo eaters due to the lack of other food and meat at their disposal.

Giant panda cubs are also known for being a bit clumsy. Panda cubs have incredibly thick skulls to protect their heads from injury during their many falls.