Home>> Giant Pandas>>Giant Panda's Diet

Giant Panda's Diet

Giant Pandas

Bamboo, Giant Pandas' Diet              Bookmark and Share

How's giant panda's digestive system like?

Despite its taxonomic classification as a carnivoran, the Giant Panda has a diet that is primarily herbivorous, which consists almost exclusively of bamboo. However, the Giant Panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore, as well as carnivore-specific genes,and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. Its ability to digest cellulose is ascribed to the microbes in its gut.The average Giant Panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 pounds) of bamboo shoots a day. Because the Giant Panda consumes a diet low in nutrition, it is important for it to keep its digestive tract full. The limited energy input imposed on it by its diet has affected the panda's behavior. The Giant Panda tends to limit its social interactions and avoids steeply sloping terrain in order to limit its energy expenditures.

Two of the panda's most distinctive features, its large size and its round face, are adaptations to its bamboo diet. Panda researcher Russell Ciochon observed that: "[much] like the vegetarian gorilla, the low body surface area to body volume [of the giant panda] is indicative of a lower metabolic rate. This lower metabolic rate and a more sedentary lifestyle allow the giant panda to subsist on nutrient poor resources such as bamboo." Similarly, the Giant Panda's round face is the result of powerful jaw muscles, which attach from the top of the head to the jaw.Large molars crush and grind fibrous plant material.

What do pandas eat?

Twenty-five species of bamboo are eaten by pandas in the wild, such as Fargesia dracocephala and Fargesia rufa.Only a few bamboo species are widespread at the high altitudes pandas now inhabit. Bamboo leaves contain the highest protein levels; stems have less.

Because of the synchronous flowering, death, and regeneration of all bamboo within a species, the Giant Panda must have at least two different species available in its range to avoid starvation. While primarily herbivorous, the Giant Panda still retains decidedly ursine teeth, and will eat meat, fish, and eggs when available. In captivity, zoos typically maintain the Giant Panda's bamboo diet, though some will provide specially formulated biscuits or other dietary supplements.