In situ Determination of the Digestibility of Bamboo Offered to Giant Pandas
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Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), are one of the most notable and powerful symbols of species conservation. Research on the species is sparse and especially lacking in the nutrition category. Although they contain a monogastric, carnivorous gastrointestinal tract, they primarily consume a highly fibrous diet of bamboo. In a previous in vivo study conducted at the Memphis Zoo, two Giant Pandas were fed four different species of bamboo across five months; July, January, March, May, and October. For the present study, samples from each month’s diet were subjected to in situ microbial degradation inside bovine rumen for 48 h. Fecal composites from each bear from each month were also digested. Dry matter (DMD) and organic matter (OMD) digestibility of samples was quantified and examined. When pandas consume bamboo, they pick a part the whole bamboo and consume each plant part individually. Primary plant parts analyzed included: leaf, culm, shoot, and cover. As expected, the shoots had the highest values; DMD (68.6%) and OMD (71.8%) while culms were lowest (9.1 to 28.0 and 8.3 to 27.8%; DMD and OMD, respectively). In most months, pandas preferred to consume culm over the other components. Overall, DMD of consumed culm averaged 16.7% for January, slightly higher than the digestibility of culm orts (15.3%). During July; pandas preferred to consume culms although it was leaf season. In July, leaf ort DMD/OMD was averaged 6% higher than the value of what was fed. Digestibility and diet selection followed the same trend for both bears utilized in this research. This analysis further solidifies the premise that giant pandas selectively consume their diets based on digestibility.
Franck, Katelyn Jane (2017). In situ Determination of the Digestibility of Bamboo Offered to Giant Pandas. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from