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  • in this episode we ask the question what external adaptations do pandas have for

  • their unique diet?

  • hey Josh Bernstein here

  • i'm at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park the National Zoo is

  • located in Northwest Washington DC where 2,000 animals live on a 163 acre urban

  • park

  • i'm here to see the zoo's biggest attraction giant pandas

  • there's the male Tian Tian the female Mei Xiang young and their baby girl

  • Bao Bao giant pandas are truly unique

  • they are bears and should be carnivores but they mostly eat plants

  • I want to know what type of external adaptations allow them to do this to

  • to explore this question of arranged to meet panda caretaker

  • Marty Dearie Marty's job is to tend and feed the giant pandas which means

  • providing their main food source

  • bamboo

  • come on into our bamboo shed it's humid in here

  • yeah so we keep it nice and humid by misting and running air conditioning

  • that's the noise you're hearing each bear can spend about 13 to 16 hours a day

  • doing nothing but eating bamboo

  • it's easily ninety to ninety-five percent of their diet you need to spend

  • a lot of time eating it just to get the nutrients they need out of it

  • more than 5 million years ago giant pandas began eating bamboo but no one is

  • sure why this change required them to physically adapt to a new diet

  • bamboo is tough hard to chew and hold for example pandas have developed an

  • oversized wrist bone that serves as a thumb called a pseudo thumb

  • this allows them to hold bamboo and strip the leaves from the stalks more

  • efficiently pandas also have dental and skull adaptations such as small canine

  • teeth flattened molars thick skull bones a very round cranium and large jaw muscles

  • these allow them to chew the tough bamboo they eat

  • can you show me how the bamboo goes from here to the pandas absolutely

  • let's go Marty instructs me to grab a bundle of bamboo and place it on the

  • floor of the ship

  • prepping it for transport to the weighing area so the best way to move it is

  • just to literally pick it up and kind of hook it right onto your hip then

  • just pull

  • so what you're going to want to do is actually put it right here on this

  • scale

  • that's good and then we just see how much there is you've got ten just about

  • 10

  • okay and how much did they get at a time so she's gonna get 18 tonight while bamboo

  • is a large majority of a panda's diet

  • they're also fed other plant based foods for enrichment by varying the pandas'

  • diet caretakers ensure that they're not missing any vital nutrients or minerals

  • so you said ninety to ninety five percent of their diet is bamboo right

  • what's the other five percent well the other five percent we can go and see it if

  • you want it's in the kitchen

  • lead on alright

  • Marty and I head to the kitchen where the other foods are prepared I'm going to show you

  • some of the other stuff that we feed our pandas we want to make sure that

  • nutritionally they're getting everything that they need

  • carrot I understand nothing too exotic apple and then what's this

  • it's sweet potato we cook it because for whatever reason they won't need it raw

  • how much vegetables and fruits if varies on the size of the animals so

  • Tian Tian our male gets more than Bao Bao who's you know a baby he weighs 280 she weighs 60

  • so

  • ok we also feed them something called a leaf-eater biscuit a leaf-eater biscuit

  • leaf-eater biscuit soy protein primarily there's other things in it

  • is this something I shouldn't be eating I don't know hopefully not seriously

  • no you're good I've eaten them you have I don't want to eat them again but

  • yes tastes like cardboard

  • yeah by varying the food's the keepers have created a diet to keep the pandas

  • healthy and happy

  • the pandas even get dessert so this is what we call a fruitcicle

  • it's just diluted apple juice with some apples and pears cut up and it's a treat

  • think of giving dessert to a child that's the afternoon pick me up exactly the cookie

  • exactly

  • we usually give the popsicles sort of at a time of day where we know that they're

  • are starting to look for something but we're not quite ready to give them like

  • their next meal it just so happens that that time is now and Marty has offered to let

  • me serve Tian Tian his afternoon snack Tian Tian

  • ok wow he's totally following the sound of your voice and the only rule is do not

  • hit don't hit the Panda and just basically go

  • right there yes

  • kind of up the hill from him a little bit it's not the distance that concerns me

  • it's my accuracy and the crowds watching I don't want to hit the nation's beloved

  • giant panda with a block of frozen fruit but what if it rolls down it's ok

  • he'll find it

  • we're good to go go ahead yeah all right

  • this isn't very far I'm just gonna oh he can catch it is that good

  • yeah will that work yeah that's good the public will be happy

  • if he sits there perfectly I fed Tian Tian

  • you're welcome he's very happy now

  • honestly I'm grateful I didn't hit him so what external adaptations do pandas

  • have for their unique diet we learned today that giant pandas are carnivores

  • but they have modified paws skulls teeth and jaws that help them eat plants

  • but these adaptations are only part of the story

  • the panda has amazing internal adaptations too in the next episode we'll

  • explore how pandas cope with eating low nutrition bamboo and go into the panda

  • yard to see what the final product of their digestive efforts looks like

  • namely panda poop

in this episode we ask the question what external adaptations do pandas have for

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Explore Smithsonian: What External Adaptations do Pandas Have for Their Unique Diet

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    rihrong posted on 2017/09/03
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