Panda Picnic

Going vegan? What can a bear claw teach us?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Bears love meat! And occasionally honey — I’m talking to you, Winnie the Pooh! But not ALL bears. For instance, despite their ursine heritage, pandas eat bamboo everyday. However, a panda’s gut is MADE for consuming meat. How do they survive on a vegan diet?

Yonggang Nie from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his team checked out the nutritional facts on bamboo – inside and out.

What did they find? On the outside, bamboo is a green plant. But inside? PACKED with protein! Bamboo’s nutrients could feed a pack of wolves, let alone one hungry panda!

Bamboo’s high protein content helps explain panda evolution too! Pandas descended from meat-eating ancestors that relied on animal protein for nutrition. They switched diets only two million years ago! That’s pretty recent for a total diet redo.

Protein-rich bamboo likely made that transition easier. It’s like vegans eating tofu or veggie sausage for protein.

Bamboo burgers, though? No thanks — I’ll stick with my double-double from In-N-Out!