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Re: A question about tooth enamel and drawing dietary conclusions

Dann Pigdon (dannj@alphalink.com.au) wrote:

<Although apparently the length of the digestive tract (c. 5 metres) is
considered short for something with a 75%-90% herbivorous diet. 

Even with the loss of carnassial teeth, their dentition still seems to suggest
an omnivorous diet rather than a primarily herbivorous one. Who knows? Given
what little we know about pandas, they may be more omnivorous than we think. Or
perhaps they've taken herbivorous adaptations as far as their ancestral form
will allow. Then again, they could still be a 'work in progress'.>

  Pandas are, in fact, generalized omnivores, despite their fame for eating
bamboo, which is a seasonal diet and not at all specific of their feeding or
foraging behavior. Chorn & Hoffman (1978, _Mammalian Species_ 110) report that
panda diets have been known to include mice, rats, fish, pikas, meat stolen
from camps, but also crocuses, irises, rice-grass, and so forth, which makes
their dietary range similar to black bears, for example.

  The biggest difference morphologically in the teeth of pandas is that their
posterior molars are much more broadly developed and all molars have accessory
cusps, which enforces at least dentally a pulverizing function. As in the
above, pandas have been found with bones in their stomachs, and their
consumption of small animals whole or in part is likely also a precipatory diet
towards what are essentially multicuspidate crushing teeth.


Jaime A. Headden

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

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