Nature is dumb.

Giant Panda Genome Reveals Why It Eats Shoots and Leaves
The panda genome gives clues to understanding the panda's strict bamboo diet. It turns out that pandas have mutations in two copies of a taste gene called T1R1, which encodes a protein that senses the savory taste of meats, cheeses, broths and other high-protein foods. These mutations may have robbed pandas of the ability to taste meat, pushing them toward their bamboo diet, the researchers suggest.

Pandas possess all the requisite genes for digesting meat, but none of the genes required for digesting bamboo, Wang and colleagues found. The researchers guess that pandas rely entirely on communities of gut microbes for extracting nutrients from bamboo.

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14 Responses:

  1. revsphynx says:

    So what you're saying is that in order for Pandas to survive as a race, we need to bio-engineer bamboo-flavored meat for them?

  2. youngwilliam says:

    New film pitch for SciFi! Panda Rampage!

    They fix the two genes, and discover exactly why someone or something adjusted that gene in the past.

  3. Some seem to have overcome this genetic deficiency.

    Nevertheless, this fixation of food does not extend to animal protein. Given the panda's large bulk, low calorie diet, it is not surprising to find that the former carnivore has a taste of flesh. Following bamboo die-back in 1983 in the Qionglai Mountains, many pandas were lured to traps by mutton or goat cooking on open fires. The smell was apparently irresistible to them. Even in the absence of these human hand-outs, panda dropping do sometimes contain animal remains. Some researcher discovered the hair of golden monkey in one panda's droppings, and the hooves, bones and hair of musk deer in another. Villagers in Wolong informed researchers that they had seen a giant panda catch and eat a bamboo rat. It is a fact that giant panda are capable of quite a turn of speed when they put their mind to it, perhaps enough to run down a young musk deer or smaller mammals. Most remarkable of all, a few pandas can turn `rogue'. Once in Wolong Research Station, a female giant panda love to eat goat. Before it was being transferred to the research station she had managed to raid several farms and to kill and eat up to thirty-five goat and sheep.

    [source]

  4. tcpip says:

    I'd like to see what ID advocates say about that...

  5. stiobhan says:

    The dude in your photo is my neighbor, Orepandar.
    He's our local superhero here in Osu (Nagoya, Japan).
    Where on earth did you get that picture?

  6. lionsphil says:

    Nature is dumb? What does that make us humans, for going "aww, look at the badly-designed fluffy bear that can't even be bothered to mate to preserve its dwindling numbers most of the time", and then dedicate resources to preserving them?

    This is clearly further proof that if you want to be a proper enviromentalist, in tune with nature and minimising human interference, you need to kill all the pandas. I'm sure PETA would agree!

    • editer says:

      Pandas are the exemplar of a wonderful term I heard recently: "charismatic megafauna".

      • shandrew says:

        The Giant Panda has been around for about 500,000 years, and apparently were doing quite well until industrialization.

        Humans have been around for about 100,000. Anyone think we have any chance of being here 400,000 years from now?

        Homo sapiens -- yep, nature is dumb

        (P.S. I've read some theory that the enormously cute coloration and shape of giant pandas is for camouflage.)