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Why pandas are black and white

March 22, 2017 GMT

Unlike other bears that may go to sleep in the winter when food is scarce, China’s giant panda bears are up eating all the time — up to 12 hours a day.

Pandas mainly munch on bamboo, which is not a great source of nutrition, so they have to eat all of the time to stay alive. That means being out and about in the winter as well as the summer.

Scientists think that’s why pandas have such unusual black and white fur. Their legs are black while their body is white. The white body helps them blend in with snow, while black legs can hide them better in the shadows of rain forests, the scientists believe.

Pandas also have black ears and black patches around their eyes, but scientists don’t think these dark colors are for hiding. Instead, they believe that dark ears are an attempt to make the bears look scary to predators, keeping them away. The black eyes are a way to recognize each other, or to scare other pandas away.

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Although pandas look cuddly and cute, they can weigh up from 165 to 300 pounds, yet they are only about 3 to 5 feet long, so they can be pretty roly poly. Although the adults can get pretty large, when a baby panda is born it is tiny — about the size of a pencil. The babies are blind and won’t open their eyes and see for another six to eight weeks.

When they do finally look around, they’ll see a black and white mama bear.

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoor editor