Study shows that pandas' bold coloration actually helps them to hide
Given the fact that they live in an environment full of brown tree trunks and green leaves, giant pandas' bold black-and-white fur coloration might seem counterintuitive. According to a new study, however, it really does help them blend into their surroundings.
The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Bristol, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Finland's University of Jyväskylä.
They started with photographs of wild pandas in their natural woodland habitat, then analyzed those photos using computer models that simulated the vision of humans, felids (wild cats such as snow leopards) and canids (wild dogs such as jackals). The latter two are known to prey on pandas.
It was found that in all three cases, the black patches blended in with dark shades in the environment, while the white areas blended with foliage or snow when present. Some pandas also have brown sections, which matched the color of the ground.
Additionally, it was noted that the sharp boundaries between pandas' black and white sections help to visually break up the outline of their bodies, so predators are less likely to notice them – this is particularly true when they're viewed from a distance. What's more, when a color-mapping technique was used to compare how effectively different animals visually match their natural backgrounds, giant pandas were found to fall within the range of other species that have traditionally been thought of as being well-camouflaged.
"I knew we were on to something when our Chinese colleagues sent us photographs from the wild and I couldn’t see the giant panda in the picture," says U Bristol's Prof. Tim Caro. "If I couldn’t see it with my good primate eyes, that meant that would-be carnivorous predators with their poorer eyesight might not be able to see it either. It was simply a matter of demonstrating this objectively."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Source: University of Bristol