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10 things you probably don't know about bears

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Oct. 20, 2015, 9:36 a.m.
Panda bear eats bamboo.

Photo: Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock

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Pandas have an extra wrist bone for eating

Pandas are known for their affinity for munching on bamboo. Though their digestive system resembles that of a carnivore, they spend most of their time eating the leaves and soft middle parts of bamboo stems.

In order to get enough nutrition from the roughage, pandas will spend upward of 12 hours a day feeding, eating as much as 20-40 pounds of plant material. And in order to more easily feed on the stems and leaves, they have a special adaptation on their paws.

Pandas have an elongated wrist bone on each front paw, with padding on the end. This functions a bit like a thumb, offering better ability to maneuver bamboo stalks. It is not a true thumb, or even a proper digit, and the panda can't use it to grasp things. But the adaptation does provide the bear with a bit more stability when feasting on bamboo.