Behavioral preferences for bamboo
Behavioral preferences for bamboo in a pair of captive giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Giant pandas are members of the order Carnivora. Their diet, however, consists almost entirely of bamboo. Herbivores are under strong pressure to be selective in what they eat because of the low digestibility of plant material.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether two captive giant pandas exhibited preferences among three species of bamboo: black (Phyllostachys nigra), bissetii (Phyllostachys bissetii), and arrow (Pseudosasa japonica). Eighteen classic choice trials were conducted in which the species were randomly paired and placed in one of two predetermined locations in the giant pandas' indoor enclosures. The pandas preferred leaves to culms or branches for each bamboo species. In the first hour of exposure, both pandas exhibited a preference for arrow bamboo. A comparison of total bamboo consumption over the course of the night indicated a strong preference for arrow bamboo by the male. The female exhibited equal preference for both arrow and bissetii over black bamboo. Further examination of feeding behavior determined that the pandas processed arrow bamboo behaviorally more efficiently than the other two species. This is the first study to experimentally assess bamboo preferences in giant pandas, and may have implications for husbandry and management programs as well as strategies for in situ conservation.