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Giant Panda Genome Reveals Why It Eats Shoots and Leaves

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What’s black and white and read all over? The giant panda genome. All 2.4 billion DNA base pairs of a 3-year-old female panda named Jingjing have been cataloged, researchers report online Dec. 13 in Nature. The information will help researchers understand panda traits such as finicky diets. A thorough understanding of panda genetics may aid conservation efforts for the endangered bear.

Pandas possess all the requisite genes for digesting meat, but none of the genes required for digesting bamboo, Wang and colleagues found. The researchers guess that pandas rely entirely on communities of gut microbes for extracting nutrients from bamboo.

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