While most adore their fluffy fur and round heads, which help give them their cuddly bear quality, others are fascinated by the many mysteries of the giant panda. Did you know that the giant panda may actually be a raccoon, they have an opposable pseudo thumb, and that they’re technically a carnivore even though their diet is primarily vegetarian? These things and more have baffled scientists and naturalists for hundreds of years. Opposable Pseudo Thumb
A characteristic of the giant panda that has mystified scientists is their movable, elongated wrist bone that acts like an opposable thumb. This human-like quality that helps give them even more of a cuddly-bear appearance enables the giant panda to pick up objects and even eat sitting up.
Quick Fact Giant pandas have five clawed toes and one pseudo thumb. Their pseudo thumb, along with pads of skin, help the giant panda strip the more nutritious small bamboo shoots and leaves while holding the stalk in their mouth. Small Bear or Large Raccoon?
Giant pandas are generally referred to as bears and are typically called panda bears rather than giant pandas. Though we may think they look like bears, there has been a great deal of discussion for decades about where giant pandas actually fit in the animal kingdom. Much of the debate has been whether they are more closely related to the red panda, once thought to be a member of the raccoon family, than the bear family. While a giant panda has a body that resembles a small bear and climbs trees like a bear, it also has several characteristics in common with the red panda. For example, both giant pandas and red pandas eat bamboo and have the same pseudo thumb. The table below lists the main characteristics the giant panda shares with bears and red pandas.
Researchers have recently discovered that the gene responsible for tasting savoury or umami flavours, such as meat, is inactive in giant pandas. For many centuries, giant pandas were thought to be a mythical creature, similar to a dragon or unicorn. Unlike other bears in the region, giant pandas don’t hibernate. Giant pandas can stand erect on their hind legs but rarely walk. The Qinling panda, another giant panda species with a dark brown and light brown coat, lives only in the mountains of Shaanxi. Giant pandas have very sensitive hearing and smell, but they have poor eyesight. A newborn giant panda is blind and looks like a t