According to a recent study by the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, pandas have been eating bamboo for six million years.
Researchers have discovered that the bear’s predecessors also possessed a sixth digit’ that resembled a thumb, which they used to grasp their preferred meal.
According to the study, this characteristic was also present in the early panda genus Ailurarctos during the late Miocene.
The earliest evidence of the appendage is far older than the evidence of the thumb-like feature found in earlier studies, which dates back only 100,000 to 150,000 years.
According to paleontologist Professor Xiaoming Wang, who examined the wrist bone of an individual from the ancestral panda genus Ailurarctos, “Deep in the bamboo forest, giant pandas traded an omnivorous diet of meat and berries to quietly consuming bamboos, a plant abundant in the subtropical forest but of low nutrient value.”
Perhaps the most important adaptation to eating a prodigious amount of bamboo, he continued, is tightly gripping the stems and crushing them into bite-sized pieces.
Pandas must consume between 26 and 84 pounds of it daily to survive. They are found mostly in temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China.
A baby panda is roughly the size of a stick of butter, but as adults, females can reach weights of up to 200 pounds and males can reach weights of up to 300 pounds, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).