Why are Pandas Black and White?

Science Fields

The external appearances of most mammals are in hues of brown and grey. They have evolved this way in order to match their surroundings and blend in. Of course, there are exceptions, like the pandas…

A new research suggests that the giant panda’s fur is also in perfect harmony with its background. The white of its face, nape, dorsum, flank, belly, and rump are adapted for crypsis against a snowy background; whereas its black shoulders and legs are adapted for crypsis in shade. Dark markings on the head though, as researchers claim, are used in communication rather than crypsis. Accordingly, dark coloured ears may be involved with signalling danger and dark eye marks with individual recognition.

In this context, the researchers compared giant pandas with 195 terrestrial carnivore species and 39 ursid subspecies thought to be related. Besides coloration, different ecological and behavioural variables were also compared. This means thousands of images and hundreds of hours of work…

Scientists believe that this dual coloration is related to its poor nutritional diet of bamboo and inability to digest plant material efficiently. This forces pandas to be active throughout the year as it cannot lay down sufficient fat reserves to hibernate. Plus, they need to travel long distances across various habitats from snowy mountains to tropical forests to find food. The result is this special camouflage, unique to pandas.


  • 1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170303091414.htm
  • 2. https://academic.oup.com/beheco/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/beheco/arx008/3058530/Why-is-the-giant-panda-black-and-white