Have you ever wondered how giant pandas can get away with being as lazy as they are, while maintaining the diet that they do, which consists of nearly entirely plants? A group of researchers and scientists did, and now we have some concrete evidence on why this is possible. A research team found that one of the biggest reasons why pandas can get away with being as lazy as they are, while maintaining a diet that they say consists of 99% plants – giant pandas have an ultra-low metabolism.
According to the researchers it stems from an incredibly low-level of a hormone being produced within giant pandas, which gives them the ability to keep that low metabolism. The researchers found that just like in humans, the metabolic rate of the giant panda is controlled by the thyroid. If the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of one particular hormone, then the entire metabolism can be at risk. However, this isn’t something that has necessarily plagued giant pandas. Instead, researchers believe that this is the case by design.
Fuwen Wei, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences pointed out that this was something that was achieved naturally over time. Wei said, “Giant pandas achieved this low metabolism through a suite of morphological, behavioral, physiological and genetic adaptations during their long evolutionary history.” Interestingly though, this is something that comes as a surprise to some individuals who thought that there might be other factors, like environmental issues at play here.
Another interesting piece of information that came from the study was the part that yielded why the low metabolic rate, as well as low energy level exist in the first place. Giant pandas have smaller organs, than their bear counterparts. This makes them require less in terms of raw energy output. However, it also contributes directly to them being less active and having a lower metabolism.
The study also pointed out that, “the metabolic rate of an active panda is still lower than a completely stationary human,” which came as another surprise. However, this new data now proves that pandas are in fact, by design, one of the laziest animals on the planet. This doesn’t mean that they’re at greater risk because of this laziness, but it does point out a pattern, an evolutionary one, that scientists hadn’t really gone to great lengths to understand before.
The big challenge for the giant panda community, as well as conservationists looking to preserve the rare species is left with the daunting task of dealing with declining populations and a universally endangered classification. This is something that scientists really have to negotiate at this point, and begin coming up with a game plan to combat, as the population of the giant pandas continues to sink down below 1,800 globally.