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Skulls of red and giant pandas provide insight into coexistence
Date:4/9/2014

onal models of the pandas' skulls and teeth. Based on these data, they built a series of computer-generated biting simulations to study the skulls' biomechanics. They found that although the skulls have some broad similaritiesthey both are robust and versatile and can accommodate a wide variety of chewingthere are some distinct differences.

The skull of the red panda is better at distributing mechanical stress during chewing than the skull of the giant panda. But the giant panda has a stronger skull that can withstand greater forces that are more concentrated and could be more damaging, even after accounting for the size differences between the two species.

"These differences tie into the way that the species actually process bamboo," Tseng said. "The giant panda is a less-refined eater: it does a lot of chomping and swallowing. Their skulls are stronger overall, so the peak biting stresses are lower, meaning that they can eat harder and larger pieces of bamboo. The red panda has a weaker skull but it's better at distributing stresses, allowing it to chew longer and break down soft bamboo leaves more thoroughly before they swallow them."

These links between dietary preference and skull performance provide an engineering basis for explaining how the co-existence of the two panda species is possible, the authors say.


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Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert

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