How Do Giant Pandas Survive on Bamboo?
Panda poop held clues to how bears break down plant fibers, study says.
Plant-eating animals tend to have longer intestines to aid in digesting fibrous material, a trait the black-and-white bears lack.
What's more, when the giant panda's genome was sequenced in 2009, scientists found that the creature lacks the genes for any known enzymes that would help break down cellulose, the plant fibers found in bamboo and other grasses.
(Related: "Ancient Pandas Competed With Giant Apes for Bamboo.")
This led researchers to speculate that panda intestines must have cellulose-munching bacteria that play a role in digestion. But previous attempts to find such bacteria in panda guts had failed.
The new study looked at gene sequences in the droppings from seven wild and eight captive giant pandas—a much bigger sample than what was used in previous