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.
Giant Panda Genome Reveals Why It Eats Shoots and Leaves
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