There’s no definite answer
We’ll be honest from the start – nobody’s quite sure why the giant panda is black and white.
There are two main theories and they are somewhat at odds with each other.
The first theory
The first is that the giant panda is black and white so that is easy to spot for its fellow pandas, which is particularly useful when searching for a mate or a family member in the wild.
The giant panda doesn’t have any natural predators, so it does make some sense that it wouldn’t need to worry about being easy to spot. Giant pandas are also notoriously relaxed in their breeding habits (as any zookeeper will tell you!) so it’s not surprising that they might need all the help they can get in that department.
However this theory does fall down somewhat when you consider a few other facts.
Firstly, although grown adult giant pandas don’t have any natural predators, young cubs are still vulnerable to attack from jackals, snow leopards and the yellow-throated marten, all of which share the panda’s natural habitat in China’s mountainous regions.
As panda cubs still share the same distinctive black and white markings, it wouldn’t be a good adaptation for them to be easy to spot, especially as many cubs are left alone by their parents for extended foraging trips.
An alternative theory
A competing theory suggests that their distinctive black and white fur may actually be for the purpose of camouflage. Although the black and white markings may seem standout and obvious to the eye, in amongst the densely forested and often snowy mountains that the pandas call home, a mixture of black and white can often be near impossible to spot. Especially the fur of cubs that have climbed high into the trees while their parents are away gathering food.
What do you think? Are the giant pandas in the photos above easy or difficult to spot in their natural habitat? Are you sure you spotted all of them?
So there you have it, two possible explanations for the giant pandas unique markings, can you think of any more reasons why pandas are black and white?
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