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J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2013 Jun;97(3):577-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2012.01299.x. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Dietary shifts affect the gastrointestinal microflora of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).

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1
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.

Abstract

Giant pandas exhibit seasonal changes in bamboo plant part preference. The influences on the gastrointestinal tracts (GIT) microbial populations were evaluated during a 14-month period for a pair of adult male and female giant pandas housed at the Memphis Zoo using traditional culturing methods to enumerate eight bacterial groups (total anaerobes, total aerobes (TAR), streptococci (STR), total enterics, Escherichia coli, Bacteroides spp., lactobacilli and Clostridium spp.). Both the male and female pandas altered bamboo consumption behaviours, with a sharp decrease in leaf preference in April 2010 and returning to high levels of leaf preference from June to October, corresponding to significant shifts in the densities of TAR, STR, and lactobacilli and Bacteroides spp. These findings indicate seasonal changes in food preference affect the assemblages of microbial populations within the GIT of the giant panda and contribute to a better understanding of the importance of bamboo in this species' foraging strategy.

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