To answer this question, we must not give a simple answer such as “we human beings also eat fish, so there’s no problem.”
This is because as human beings, we’re used to eating fish. When we have fish in our mouth, we can make use of our oral muscles and tongue to separate the fish and the fishbone in the saliva and use our hands to remove the fishbone. So, how does a panda eat bamboo technically?
There are four ways to eat among pandas:
Sucking: they eat fluid food, such as milk, drinking water, etc., using negative pressure inside and outside the mouth.
Foraging: they use this skill when eating thick porridge, especially when using the tongue as a spoon.
Biting: they use their incisors to break in the food and chew, probably the way we eat chicken legs, they use this skill to eat grass, steak, fruit, etc.
Biting and cutting: this is the core of this article, also what we’re going to discuss. This is mainly used to eat hard or fiber-rich foods such as bamboo and bones.
The specific process is as followed:
1. Picking a bamboo
First of all, the panda smells the pile of bamboo, then use its claws or mouth to take out the preferred one.
Of course, sometimes they make mistakes even after smelling, if they find out that the chosen bamboo isn’t what they want, they’d probably throw it away and choose again.
Then, they comb the bamboo leaves to remove the dirt and the dead parts, smoothen out the bamboo leaves, and some even use its mouth to wet the bamboo leaves. Finally, they sit down and start eating.
2. Eating the foliage
The panda first eats the twigs and leaves. They gather the leaves from top to bottom and send them into the distal corner of the mouth, then bite off from the petiole, hold it, and start eating.
3. Eating the bamboo stems
I’m not sure if you have ever eaten sugar cane. It is more difficult to eat the section of the sugar cane close to its stem.
This part is called the base (the lower end in morphology). The panda, when eating bamboo, first bite off the base as there is more lignin in this area.
This is a significant step preventing its mouth from getting pricked, it’s similar to us first picking large bones before eating fish.
Then, the panda peels off the skin of the bamboo. This is also an essential step, and I’m sure you will know why once you imagine yourself eating sugar cane.
The action of peeling is probably done by the panda’s caries which bites the bamboo skin tightly, while its head and palm move in the opposite direction. Then, the panda pulls off the skin.
They bite the bamboo into small sections before getting them into their mouth.
That’s right, they eat in small sections.
Panda is a carnivorous animal. During its long evolution, because of the difficulty in obtaining meat in nature, pandas have gradually grown the ability to eat as an omnivorous.
However, there is a very obvious anatomical feature in them – the length of their intestine proves that they haven’t obtained 100% of such an ability yet.
Fortunately, they have been surviving, and we’ve been fortunate enough to still see their existence today.