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

72 Folder Collection
rihrong published on September 3, 2017
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