Bacteria help pandas get the most out of being picky eaters, study says
Pandas are famously picky eaters. They only consume bamboo — a poor quality diet low in fat. But the creatures appear to have evolved to get the most out of what they do eat, according to a new study.
Their gut bacteria changes in late spring and early summer when bamboo is at its most nutritious — while it's sprouting protein-rich green shoots. The bacteria makes the bear gain more weight and store more fat, which researchers said may compensate for a lack of nutrients later in the year, when bamboo plants have only fibrous leaves to chomp on.
"We've known these pandas have a different set of gut microbiota during the shoot-eating season for a long time, and it's very obvious that they are chubbier during this time of the year," said a researcher for the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a news release.