Panda © Janeanne
Sixty-odd species of bamboo make up 99 per cent of pandas’ diet in the wild. But they will gladly eat meat in captivity, so clearly haven’t completely lost touch with their carnivore ancestry.
Earlier this year it was found that pandas also have a sweet tooth, unlike some other carnivores, such as cats, which have lost their sweet taste receptors. According to one of the scientists involved in that study, Danielle Reed of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, this might “explain why Bao Bao, the giant panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington DC, is apparently relishing sweet potato as a first food during weaning”.