Do Pandas Have Whiskers? (Or Pouches)

Ahhh, giant pandas – aren’t they just the cutest? I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about them and one question seems to pop up often.

Do pandas have whiskers? Pandas don’t have whiskers in the usual sense that we think of whiskers. Pandas do have long hairs on their face around their nose and mouth, but these hairs don’t have the sensory abilities that whiskers in other animals have.

Giant pandas do seem a bit clumsy, maybe the lack of proper whiskers is to blame for that.

Let’s see what other interesting info can we learn about giant pandas. We’ll start with the basics.

What are pandas?

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are bears native to south-central China that are characterized by large, black patches around their eyes, over the ears, and across the body. Pandas are folivores because bamboo shoots and leaves make up more than 99% of their diet.

They are a vulnerable species with some reports saying that there are less than 1,600 pandas left in the wild and others claiming up to 3,000 individuals. In 2016, the IUCN reclassified the species from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

What are whiskers?

Whiskers or vibrissae can be found on almost all mammals, and they’re positioned on other parts of the body, not only on their faces. They are a vital part of the anatomy and are specialized for tactile sensing. These specialized hairs aid vision and help animals navigate their environment, providing additional sensory input, much like antennae on insects.

Whiskers are usually thicker and stiffer than other types of (pelagic) hair and rats and mice are considered to be “whisker specialists”. Whiskers can be very long in some species. For example, the length of a chinchilla’s whiskers can be more than a third of its body length.

RELATED: Do All Dogs Have Whiskers?

Do pandas have tails?

Pandas do have a tail that is 4-6 inches long. They’re white in color and are often used to mark their territory. It is actually similar to a bear’s tail – short and stocky. You can find out more about their tails in my other post.

Do pandas have thumbs?

Pandas actually do have a thumb on their paws and it’s opposable – they use it to grasp bamboo shoots and to manipulate the bamboo while eating. But panda’s thumb is not a true thumb though – it is an enlarged sesamoid bone – the same bone that other carnivorans, such as bears have.

It is normal for mammals to have sesamoid bones in their hand. All of the Canoidea (dogs, bears, raccoons, pandas, weasels) have a radial sesamoid bone.

Although this thumb is not perfect, it does its job – to help other digits hold onto bamboo.

Panda hair isn’t as soft as it looks, especially as they get older; it feels kind of like a scratchy wool sweater.

RELATED: Do Cows Have Whiskers?

Do pandas have pouches?

The pouch – or marsupium – is used instead of placenta in marsupials – the only mammals that have pouches where they nurse their babies. Because pandas are marsupials, they do not have pouches where they carry their young ones.

According to Livescience, panda babies are born bizarrely tiny. At birth, the cubs weigh just about 3.5 ounces (100 grams), which means that panda mothers are 900 times larger than their babies. The pouch that acts as a warm, and safe place would actually come in handy for petite pandas.

Once thought to be marsupials, giant pandas are actually true bears.

RELATED: Do Pigs Have Whiskers?

Do pandas hibernate?

Do pandas hibernate
Do pandas hibernate?

Giant pandas are strange animals. They are bears, and one of the most widely known facts about bears is that they hibernate during the winter. Not our pandas though – they do not spend cold winters in hibernation. But why is that?

Bamboo is the answer. It comprises 99% of their food and because it’s a plant, it doesn’t have any fat. Storing fat for winter can be extremely hard on a bamboo only diet so pandas opt-out of hibernation and simply migrate.

If the term migration evokes thousands of miles of travel for you – guess again. They will only migrate a few thousand feet to lower elevations which have a bit warmer temperatures.

Do pandas hibernate
Do pandas hibernate?