Why Are Giant Pandas Black And White?

Long Hui, a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) at the Vienna Zoo. (Credit: RobertG / CC BY-SA 3.0.)

Pandas are not your average bear

Male giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) “Tai Shan” eats bamboo at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Fernando Revilla / CC BY-SA 2.5.)
  1. panda coloration advertises it is an aggressive animal that is not to be trifled with
  2. the panda’s white fur acts as camouflage against a snowy background
  3. the panda’s dark fur retains heat in cold environments
  4. the dark patches around the panda’s eyes reduce daytime glare
  5. the contrasting color pattern on the panda’s face is used to communicate with other pandas

Hiding in snow or shade, or intimidating competitors

Figure 1 (a) Regions of the carnivore body used 1 in Method 1. (b) and © Regions of the carnivore body used in Method 2. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arx008
Wolverine (Gulo gulo) on rocky terrain. (Credit: US National Park Service / Public Domain.)
Figure 2. Working hypotheses for pelage coloration in the giant panda (Drawing by Ricky Patel).

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𝐆𝐫𝐫𝐥𝐒𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐭, scientist & writer

𝐆𝐫𝐫𝐥𝐒𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐭, scientist & writer

PhD evolutionary ecology/ornithology. Psittacophile. scicomm Forbes, previously Guardian. always Ravenclaw. discarded scientist & writer, now an angry house elf