The distinctive black and white pattern on a Panda makes the bear one-of -a-kind.
Giant, wild pandas are only found in China, but are known worldwide as a popular icon for cuteness. But what is the reason for the panda's black and white markings?
The same scientists who set out to answer why the zebra has black-and-white stripes, decided to dig into the panda's coloration.
The group of researchers from University of California, Davis and California State University, Long Beach recently published a study in the journal of Behavior Ecology explaining the black and white markings on Pandas have two functions: camouflage and communication.
The scientists isolated fur colors on each part of the panda's body, for example, the legs, eyes and back, to find the function of each. The key to the not-so-black-and-white answer was treating each part of the body as an independent area.
The team compared each fur region on the panda's body to the fur colorings of 39 other bear subspecies and 195 carnivore species. They tried to match the dark and light coloring on the fur to a number of ecological and behavioral factors to determine their function.
The scientists found the white region of the panda's body serves to camouflage the critters in the snowy habitats they're found in. The black regions of their body helps hide them in the shade.
However, the black fur around the panda's eyes and their black ears serve as communication tools. The black ears could symbol ferocity or aggressive intent. The black around the panda's eyes may help them recognize each other as individuals and also serves as a symbol of aggression.
The dual coloring on pandas could stem from a poor diet, according to the study.
Since pandas survive off mainly bamboo, they don't store enough fat to stay dormant through the winter like other bear subspecies. The panda needs to be active year-round and withstand habitats ranging from snowy mountains to tropical forests, which explains the need for protection in shade and snow.