SAN FRANCISCO, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The unique coloration of the giant panda that is loved by many people has long been a mystery to scientists. But now a joint research team believes they have solved the mystery, once and for all.
The black and white patches on the giant panda mainly have two functions - camouflage and communication, the joint research team from University of California, Davis, and California State University, Long Beach explains.
The giant panda's white face, nape, dorsum, flank, belly, and rump are adapted for crypsis against a snowy background, whereas its black shoulders and legs are adapted for crypsis in shade, according to the study that the joint research team published in the journal of Behavioral Ecology on Feb. 28.
However, dark markings on the head are not used in crypsis, but in communication: dark ears may be involved with signaling intent about ferocity whereas dark eye marks may serve in individual recognition, according to the study.
There is no compelling support for their fur color being involved in temperature regulation, disrupting the animal's outline, or in reducing eye glare, the study explains.
"Understanding why the giant panda has such striking coloration has been a long-standing problem in biology that has been difficult to tackle because virtually no other mammal has this appearance, making analogies difficult," said Dr. Tim Karo, a professor from the University of California and the lead researcher.