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When is a bear not a bear? Maybe when it's a panda. Scientists disagree about which species of panda the animal belongs to. The problem is that there are two very different species of these animals. The black and white panda, which is well known to everyone, is called the giant panda. Giant pandas have bulky bodies weighing over 90 kilograms and look like very cute bears. But another, lesser known, small panda (barely sixty centimeters long), has rust-colored fur and a long shaggy tail. This animal, which is called a red panda, starting from the shape and size of the body to the tail with light and dark rings, looks more like a raccoon than a bear.
After studying both of these creatures, the scientists concluded that the small red animal is closely related to the large black and white. Their bodies are similarly built, and they have a similar way of eating and living. Because of these similarities, both animals are called pandas. But opinions differ from here. Some scientists say that the giant panda is definitely a species of bear. Some think the red panda is actually a raccoon. And there are those who believe that both species belong to a special family of pandas. Scientists are especially confused by the giant panda. Instead of galloping like a real bear, she hides. Instead of screaming, she bleats like a sheep. Unlike other bears, it does not hibernate and does not like meat. However, by studying and comparing the blood cells and other cells of giant pandas and common bears, the scientists concluded that pandas are indeed bears that have adapted to life in the mountains of China, Nepal and Tibet. They think that bears, raccoons and red pandas have a common ancestor, an animal that lived twenty million to forty million years ago. This explains their similar characteristics. But raccoons and red pandas evolved in one direction, and bears, including the giant panda, evolved in the other.
Giant pandas live in dense mountain forests, at altitudes of 1,500 to 3,000 meters, where they grow bamboo that grows on small isolated areas around trees. They eat a lot - they swallow about 14 kilograms of bamboo leaves and stalks and about 40 kilograms of young shoots every day. Red pandas also live in Asia, but not at such high altitudes. They live in the foothills of the Himalayas. Similar to giant pandas, they also feed on bamboo shoots, but they also eat fruits, nuts, and sometimes small animals.
Giant pandas give birth to one cub each. Like the cubs of other real bears, panda cubs are incredibly small. Newborn pandas are blind and naked, and they weigh only about 140 grams. Each of these tiny pandas faces a difficult task - in two to three years they have to increase their weight almost seven hundred times. Panda cubs are so small because they develop in a very special way before birth. Namely, the fertilized egg floats freely in the uterus of a female panda for several months, instead of, as in other mammals, it attaches to the wall of the uterus and grows quickly. This is likely to happen to ensure that the number of newborn pandas roughly corresponds to the amount of food available. If a female cannot find enough food during pregnancy, it can happen that the embryo never attaches and develops. But if all goes well, the embryo will cling to the wall of the uterus before the end of the panda's four-month (or six-month) pregnancy. After that, he won't have much time to develop and gain weight before he jumps out into the world. But when it is born, the panda cub grows at an incredible rate. When he turns one year old, the giant panda weighs about 35 kilograms.