Scientists have unveiled that giant pandas are forced to eat so much bamboo that they lack the enzymes to properly digest them.
So now we know why we see pandas eating bamboo all of the time. Pandas are forced to eat Bamboo 14 hours a day. The main reason is that only 17% of the bamboo they swallow.
Researchers have found out in a new study that bacteria which is found in their gut is not the type for efficiently breaking down bamboo. These pandas are meant to eat meat. Scientists have found that these animals actually have a carnivore like gut.
They are the most endangered species on planet as only 1600 pandas are left on Earth. A researcher who was working on giant pandas said that unlike other plant eating animals, they have successfully evolved, anatomically specialized digestive systems so that they could efficiently deconstruct fibrous plant matter.
He also said that the pandas still have a gastrointestinal tract which is similar to that of the carnivores. Pandas don’t have genes for plant digesting enzymes in their own genome. This situation is probably the main reason why they are at a risk of extinction.
Another researcher said that this result in unexpected and quite interesting because it is implying that panda’s gut microbiota may not have well adapted to its unique diet. This has now placed the pandas to an evolutionary dilemma.
He also said that pandas have evolved from bears that ate meat and plants. Then the pandas started eating bamboo exclusively about two million years ago. Pandas spend 14 hours a day eating 27.5 pounds of bamboo leaves and stems.
But because they could only digest 17% of what they eat, their feces is mainly composed of undigested bamboo fragments. The researchers were very curious to find out how the panda is able to digest bamboo fiber and extra nutrients from it.
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To observe the panda gut microbiota the scientists used a lab technique called the 16S rRNA sequencing. The results showed that the giant panda gut doesn’t harbor plant degrading bacteria.