The Atlantic

The Giant Panda Is a Closet Carnivore

A new study shows that the nutrient profile of the bear’s all-bamboo diet is much closer to that of a typical meat eater.
Source: Mike Blake, Reuters

The giant panda, a consummate vegetarian, belongs to a group of mammals called Carnivora, so-called because almost all of them—dogs, cats, hyenas, weasels, mongooses, raccoons, and more—eat meat. But the giant panda’s diet of bamboo, and little else, makes it a vegetarian.

At least, outwardly.

Yonggang Nie and Fuwen Wei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have spent years tracking wild pandas, analyzing exactly what kinds of bamboo they eat, and measuring the chemicals within those mouthfuls. And the nutrient profile of a panda’s all-bamboo diet—very high in protein, and low in carbohydrates—is much closer to that of a

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