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Giant Panda Babies Are Born ‘Undercooked,’ and this is still a mystery

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The Dynamic and Energetic team Scientia.
Three cubs in a hospital after a few weeks of birth
Three cubs in a hospital after a few weeks of birth

There are various theories presented why Giant panda babies are born weirdly tiny and underdeveloped? But most of them turned out to be wrong. Some researchers suspect that the newly born pandas are tiny as compared to their moms due to hibernation: At some point, bears started cutting short their pregnancies to avoid gestating during their hibernation, and now that trait is baked into every bear species — even pandas, which don’t hibernate.

Though this theory turned out false and new research shows that Pandas are born exceptionally tiny and underdeveloped which sometimes referred to as “undercooked”. And other bears, including species that do hibernate, are born with robust, mature skeletons.

Peishu Li, the lead author of this research, an undergraduate at Duke University at the time of the research and is now a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, said in a statement that newly born Panda babies weigh just about 3.5 ounces (100 grams), which indicates they are 9 times smaller as compared to their mothers. Only a couple of other species, including kangaroos and echidnas, have similar weight differences at birth. Still, it is nearly possible as a truthful universal bear story.

Li and her co-author, Duke, biology professor Kathleen Smith, researched two of preserved cubs or newly born pandas. They used a CT scanner to build 3D models of the unfortunate critters’ skeletons and scanned newborn grizzlies, sloth bears, polar bears, dogs, a fox, and other animals. Comparing all the skeletons, Li and Smith found that pandas appeared to have uniquely under-developed bones at birth.

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