Lazy panda spends less energy so as to survive on bamboo alone

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Ever wondered why Pandas, wherever you observe them, are always in a chilled out mood and doing almost none to very low amount of activity?

There is a good reason for that! Researchers have found out that Panda is one of the few animals which have natural energy-saving traits that enable it to survive on a low-energy diet like bamboo. Researchers have revealed through a study published in journal Science that the Panda has slimmed down organs, and underactive thyroid glands to lower their energy demands and hence survive only on bamboos.

According to researchers Yonggang Nie and colleagues, the daily energy expenditure (DEE) of pandas is about 38 per cent of the average for a terrestrial mammal with the same body mass. Researchers based their findings on a study of five captive pandas and three wild ones.

The DEE values for giant pandas are substantially lower than those for koalas, for example, and more akin to those of three-toed sloths, according to the researchers. Researchers used GPS loggers to track the bears and found that giant pandas are much less active than other bears.

Further research revealed that the animal’s brain, liver, and kidney are relatively small compared to other bears, and that its thyroid hormone levels are only a fraction of the mammalian norm — comparable to a hibernating black bear’s hormone levels.

Finally, the researchers compared the giant panda genome to those of other mammals, identifying a panda-specific variation on the DUOX2 gene, loss of which is associated with underactive thyroids in humans. Taken together, these results suggest that particularly low energy expenditures and thyroid hormone levels enable the carnivorous-looking panda bears to munch on bamboo all day.