Why Pandas are Black and White
Tim Caro, Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, was the lead author of a study investigating the giant panda’s black and white coat color. In collaboration with co-authors from CalState, Long Beach and undergraduate students from UC Davis, the team found that their coloration serves in both camouflage and communication. Comparing different areas of the body to other carnivores and bears, work that involved hundreds of hours of work, they found that the white face, neck, belly, and rump help a giant panda to hide in the snow, while the black arms and legs allow it to hide in the shade. The markings on the panda's head, however, are not used to hide from predators, but rather to communicate. Dark ears may help convey a sense of ferocity, a warning to predators. Their dark eye patches may help them recognize each other or signal aggression toward panda competitors.