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J Nutr. 1982 Apr;112(4):636-41.

Utilization of bamboo by the giant panda.


Two giant pandas were used to assess the utilization of bamboo as a feedstuff. Three 1-week-long digestion trials were conducted during which feed intake and fecal output were recorded. Passage of digesta was measured from both fluid and particulate markers administered at feeding. Results indicate that the giant panda, although highly specialized for the consumption of bamboo, is a very inefficient digester of bamboo. The pandas consumed up to 6% of body weight in dry matter per day, with bamboo dry matter digestibility averaging less than 20%. Apparent digestion coefficients for the structural carbohydrates of bamboo (27% for hemicellulose and 8% for cellulose) indicate that, unlike most herbivores, pandas do not rely heavily on the microbial degradation of plant material to fulfill their nutritional requirements. Additionally, the passage of digesta through the gastrointestinal tract of the panda was extremely rapid, with complete clearance of markers in less than 12 hours. The giant panda seems to have specialized to a feed source high in plant fiber without extensive modification of the digestive tract by selectivity in feeding, effective mastication, ingestion of large quantities, digestion of cellular contents rather than cell walls and rapid fecal excretion of the undigested residue.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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