November 19, 2008

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Do you remember about Po?
Po is a panda who works in a noodle restaurant owned by his goose father Mr. Ping, who hopes that Po will one day take over the restaurant, and wishes to disclose to him the secret ingredient of his family's famous noodle soup. Po is foretold to be the Dragon Warrior, much to the chagrin of the resident kung fu warriors…
This is the reason why do I write about Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). This is about him…

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are classed as bears by most scientists. Unlike other bears, they vocalize by bleating rather than roaring. Until recently, giant pandas were grouped with raccoons and lesser pandas (i.e., the Procyonidae (raccoon) family). This decision was based primarily on physiological evidence. In the late 1980's, DNA/serological studies clearly established that giant pandas are clearly more bear than raccoon. Some scientists want to place giant pandas in their own grouping; but for most bear researchers, this does not seem warranted.

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) first appeared in the evolutionary record during the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, some two to three million years ago. Panda fossils have been found in Burma, Vietnam, and particularly in eastern China, as far north as Beijing. Pandas were once widespread in southern and eastern China and in neighbouring Myanmar and north Vietnam. Today, however, there are only around 1,000 left. All of these are found in one geographic region - the bamboo forests of southwestern China.

The giant panda only exists at present in six small areas located in inland China. The habitat, suitable for the bamboo on which it survives, is a cold, damp coniferous forest. The elevation ranges from 1,200 to 3,400 metres ( 4,000 to 11,000 feet) high. In most of the areas in which they still roam wild, they must compete with farmers who farm the river valleys and the lower slopes of the mountains.

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)Adult pandas weigh 165-353 pounds. Their body length is 4-5 feet, with a 5 inch tail. Males are slightly larger than females. They have stronger forelegs, wider muzzles and are 10-20% heavier. Pandas have stout, powerful limbs. Their hind feet lack a heel pad. Pandas have scent glands positioned under the tail. Their head is relatively massive with well developed chewing muscles. Unlike other bears, they have well-developed premolars. Their molars are broad and flat and adapted to chewing bamboo. Their digestive system is typical of a carnivore; only slightly adapted for processing bamboo: tough esophageal lining, pyloric region of stomach thick and muscular, small intestine shortened, colon surface area enlarged.
Male genitalia is similar to red panda. Vision is poor. Their pupils have a vertical slit like many nocturnal animals. Sense of smell is very good.

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)A panda's coat is thick and wooly. It is white with black eye patches, ears, legs, band across shoulders and sometimes tip of tail. Fur is slightly oily preventing water penetration. Their striking coloration is thought to be an important signal to other pandas ( They avoid contact and have poor vision). Brown-and-white pandas exist but are extremely rare. Black and white and bear¬like, the panda roams in a well¬defined home¬range of between 3.9 and 12 km.
Much research on pandas has been conducted at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan. Studies here showed that the panda lived a solitary existence, meeting only occasionally with other pandas, except during the very brief mating season in late spring or early summer when several males come together and compete for a female. A female is on heat for two to three days. New research from Shaanxi Province's Qinling Mountains now presents a different scenario. Far from living alone, it claims, pandas in Qinling live and travel in groups of at least two, and sometimes in groups of up to 28.

A sedentary bear who usually stays in a selected feeding area eating large amounts of bamboo, giant pandas generally move in a slow, determined manner. When startled, they will move at a slow trot to escape danger. Giant pandas, with their short claws, are capable of climbing trees very easily. The head of the giant panda is very large and has developed large molars which are specifically designed to crush fibrous plant material. It has powerful muscles which extend from the top of its head to the jaws giving it the capacity to crush tough stalks.

Even the throat of the giant panda has undergone significant evolution as the esophagus has a tough, horny lining to protect the bear from injury due to bamboo splinters. The stomach is similarly protected with its thick muscular wall linings. Giant pandas have forepaws which are extremely flexible. Evolution has given them a enlarged wrist bone (the radial sesamoid) that works in the manner of an opposable thumb. This highly functional adaptation allows the giant panda to manipulate their primary food source, bamboo stems and leaves, with dexterity and precision. The hind feet of the giant panda lack the heel pad found in the other seven bear species.

While members of the order Carnivora , giant pandas have evolved almost exclusively into vegetarians with accompanying changes in their dental structure and, also, to a lesser degree, their digestive tract. Their short intestine is still not sufficiently developed to remove all of the available nutrients from the fibrous bamboo on which they feed. The basic fur colour of the giant panda is white with black eye patches, ears, legs, feet, chest, and shoulders. Within its natural environment ( the deep forest and, at upper elevations, snow and rock) , its mottled colouring provides camouflage. There is also speculation that its striking colour pattern may be a clear message to other pandas to stay away as the giant panda is an extremely solitary animal.

The fur of the giant panda is thick and coarse. It consists of a coarse outer layer and a very dense, wooly-like underfur. To the touch, the fur feels oily. This oily protective coating helps protects giant pandas from the cool and damp climate in which the bear lives. Destruction of the panda's natural habitat is now a major threat to the survival of the species. In the eleven years from 1973 to 1984, suitable habitat for the animal shrunk by 50 per cent in six isolated, but previously ideal, areas.

Pandas face the problem of the bamboo flowering cycle. At regular intervals (ranging from 10 to 100 years depending on the species), bamboo plants flower over large areas and die. Although they regenerate from seed within a year, it can take up to 20 years before the bamboo can support a panda population again. When the bamboo in one area flowers, pandas have to move to other areas where this has not happened. Historically, this was easy, but as the human population expanded, more forests have been cleared for agricultural purposes, or for the collection of fuelwood and timber. At the same time, more human settlements and roads have been built. Together, they make panda migration much more difficult, leaving pandas restricted to islands of forest.

Although giant pandas will eat a large variety of plants, the overwhelming bulk of their diet, over 99%, consists of bamboo leaves, stems and shoots. Over fifteen different varieties of bamboo grow within the region. Because of the giant pandas still quite inefficient intestinal system, it must eat great amounts of bamboo each day in order to get sufficient nutrition to survive. Feeding for 12 to 16 hours each day, giant pandas will consume 10 to 18 kilograms (22 to 40 pounds) of bamboo leaves and stems. When consuming fresh bamboo shoots, the necessary intake rises to approximately 38 kilograms (84 pounds) each day.

The size of the home range of an giant panda is quite small when compared to the home ranges of other bear species. In general, a home range will vary from 3.8 to 6.5 square kilometers (1.5 to 2.5 square miles). The range of an individual giant panda is shared with other bears. Females have been found to stay in quite small, discrete ranges only 30 to 40 hectares (75 to 100 acres) in size. Males have larger home ranges which overlap the home ranges of several females.

The habitat of the giant panda, suitable for the bamboo on which it survives, is a cold, damp coniferous forest. The elevation ranges from 1,200 to 3,400 metres ( 4,000 to 11,000 feet) high. In most of the areas in which they still roam wild, they must compete with farmers who farm the river valleys and the lower slopes of the mountains. Ancient Chinese history and writings abound with mention of the Panda. They were kept by emperors and their hides were highly valued. They carried a mystique and were believed to be able to ward off evil spirits and natural disasters.

The giant panda is a large mammal which, overall, has the same general size and shape of the American black bear and the Asiatic black bear. In general, adult giant pandas and have a length of 160 to 180 centimeters (5 1/4 to 6 feet). The weight of a adult male giant panda is normally between 80 and 125 kilograms (176 and 276 pounds) with males typically weighing about 10% to 20% more than females.

With few natural enemies other than man, the lifespan of giant pandas in the wild is thought to be twenty-five years or more. The panda has the digestive system of a carnivore. Long ago, however, it adapted to a vegetarian diet and now feeds almost exclusively on the stems and leaves of bamboo. Hidden in the dense foliage of the forest, the panda eats for up to 14 hours a day, consuming 12 to 14kg of bamboo.

The panda is omnivorous. While bamboo represents 99% of their diet they have also been known to eat fish, pikas, rodents, vines, irises, crocus, mushrooms and rice grass. The panda assumes a sitting position to eat. Their unique forepaws have an enlarged wristbone that they can flex like a thumb. This allows them to direct bamboo stalks to their mouths where they strip off bites with their incisor teeth.

Pandas digest about 20% of what they eat. (Cattle, for example, digest 60% of their intake) To compensate for their low quality diet pandas select only the most nutritious parts of the bamboo, they eat rapidly and they eat a lot. About 12 hours each day are spent feeding and they consume 12-15% of their body weight each day. During this time they consume between 23 and 36 pounds of bamboo shoots and leaves. They have been known to consume as much as 84 pounds of "new" bamboo shoots at one sitting. Special adaptations for digestion include large molars. 25 species of bamboo are eaten by pandas in the wild. Captive pandas will eat only 9 of these. Only a few bamboo species are widespread at the high altitudes pandas now inhabit: Fargesia spathacea, Sinarundinaria chungii, Sinarundinaria nitida, and Sinarundinaria fangiana.

Bamboo leaves contain the highest protein levels, stems have less. Because of the synchronous flowering, death and regeneration of all bamboo species, pandas must have a least 2 different species available in their range to avoid starvation. Throughout most of the year pandas have a water imbalance because their feces eliminate more water than the food brings in. They usually drink at least once each day. In the wild, adult female pandas give birth once a year and usually produce two cubs in the litter. Normally only one will survive. A newborn cub will weigh around 5 ounces is all white and blind at birth. The black spots develop after about a month.

A cub will begin to eat bamboo at about six months and be fully weaned after nine months. At the end of the first year they are about 70 to 80 pounds. The cubs will stay with their mother for about 1 1/2 years. Giant panda cubs are extremely vulnerable while the mother is away feeding on bamboo. During this time, the newborn is subject to predation by any number of predators.
The cubs will stay with the mother for the entire first year to year and a half. Normally they are driven off by their mother as she prepares to breed once more.

The survival of giant panda cubs is totally dependent on the skill of the mother in both protecting them and teaching them the basics of what to eat, where and how to get it, how to cope with danger and all the other skills of living in the wild. Wild giant pandas are found only in southwestern China. They occupy 6 small forest fragments in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. (5,400 square miles). They inhabit damp, misty forests of bamboo and conifers. Their preferred habitat has dense stands of at least one species of bamboo (preferably more).

They are found at high altitudes (4,000-11,500 feet). They migrate higher in the summer, lower in the winter, preferring areas that are undisturbed by human activity and with access to clear mountain streams. Summers are cool with Monsoon (torrential rains) occurring from June to October. Snow and hail are common in winter. Unlike some other bears, the panda does not hibernate. Its cubs are fairly small at birth, weighing only 90 to 130 gm, but, fully grown, it can weigh 100kg and over. New¬born cubs have little fur and are very delicate. Infant mortality is also high. The average life span is 18 to 20 years in the wild, and up to 30 years in captivity.

Da xiong mao, the Chinese name for the giant panda means "great bear cat". Chinese books, written over 3,000 years ago, talk of the giant panda. Even then, it was believed to be endowed with mystical powers capable of warding off natural disasters and evil spirits. The scientific name for giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, simply means black and white bear.


1 comment:

nendarap said...

duh lihat binatang ini jadi inget film kungfu panda, binatang yang sangat lucu dengan makanan yg unik makan bambu.