Biologists in California say they've figured out why the most loveable bears in the world are black and white, as Ben Gruber reports.
Why are giant pandas black and white? It's a question that has eluded scientists for decades. But now, biologists in California say they have cracked the panda color code. To figure out why pandas are so different from other bear species that are almost all just one color, researchers say they had to deconstruct the animal into parts. SOUNDBITE (English) TIM CARO, PROFESSOR OF WILDLIFE BIOLOGY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "Our breakthrough was to divide the panda's body up into different areas. So, think about shoulders, think about legs, think about backs, think about rumps, and not treat the panda as a whole animal, but treat it as a constellation of different parts." And these different parts allowed the scientists to look for what's called 'ecological associations' as compared to other bear species. The conclusion is that a panda's poor diet - a constant need to eat bamboo - is the main reason why its fur is both black and white. The white fur is for camouflage in the snowy mountains while the black fur is to blend into more forested areas - environments that the bears switch between in a constant hunt for bamboo. SOUNDBITE (English) TIM CARO, PROFESSOR OF WILDLIFE BIOLOGY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "So it's (panda) moving between habitats, and the way that it's had to deal with that in terms of trying to remain camouflage is it's come up with two solutions." The researchers also suggest that the black rings around a panda's eyes may be a way of communicating with other pandas, while the black fur on its ears may be a means of warding off threats from predators. The biologists say evolution just hasn't done right by pandas -- leaving them never fully camouflaged while constantly in search for a plant that never really fills their bellies….but they are adorable.