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How the panda became a vegetarian: the discovery of a fossil sheds light on its "sixth thumb"

2022-07-03T08:46:10.708Z

This fossil belongs to a now extinct panda ancestor called Ailurarctos, who lived in China between six and eight million years ago.



The panda has a "sixth thumb", allowing it to hold the bamboo stalks that make up the majority of its diet.

The discovery of fossils of an ancestor of the mammal in China has allowed researchers to solve the mystery around the mammal's "sixth thumb", allowing it to hold the bamboo stalks that make up the majority of its diet.

These fossils, about six million years old, were discovered in Yunnan province in southwestern China.

Among them is a particularly large wrist bone, called the radial sesamoid.

Read alsoA month in the life of the baby pandas of Beauval

This is the oldest evidence for the existence of a "sixth finger" in the giant panda, which allows it to grasp and break thick stalks of bamboo, the researchers pointed out in the latest edition of the publication. Scientific Reports magazine.

An extra finger, which does not exist in any other bear

This fossil belongs to a now extinct panda ancestor called Ailurarctos, who lived in China between six and eight million years ago.

“The giant panda is (…) a rare case of a large carnivore (…) that has become a herbivore,” said Wang Xiaoming, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

"The Ailurarctos

Thumb

F e shows (…) for the first time the probable timeline and evolutionary stages of bamboo feeding in pandas," he added.

While the existence of the "false thumb" had already been known to researchers for about a century, the fossil evidence of this bone sheds light on several questions that have long remained unanswered, including how and when this extra finger, which does not exist in no other bears, evolved.

Millions of years ago, pandas swapped the omnivorous, protein-rich diet of their ancestors for the nutrient-poor, year-round bamboo in southern China.

They eat for up to 15 hours a day and an adult panda can consume 45 kg of bamboo daily.

Although their diet is primarily vegetarian, giant pandas are also known to occasionally hunt small animals.

Source: leparis

All tech articles on 2022-07-03

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