BioMajor Peishu Li Publishes on Panda Anatomy


Skull of a newborn giant panda

The Journal of Anatomy has published a paper by graduating senior Peishu Li and Kathleen Smith, "Comparative skeletal anatomy of neonatal ursids and the extreme altriciality of the giant panda" (02 December 2019, doi.org/10.1111/joa.13127). The paper addresses the extreme difference in size between panda newborns and adults--a factor of 400 by weight. Li and Smith compared the skeletons of newborn pandas with those of other bears, as well as dogs and foxes. Even among the bear species pandas were extreme, with bone structure considerably less mature. Grizzly and polar bear babies were comparable to the other mammals. This eliminated hibernation as the reason for the panda's underdevelopment. Other hypotheses include the panda's diet of bamboo, or delayed implantation of the fertilized egg in the womb; other bears develop for two months after implantation, pandas for only one. "They’re basically undercooked," Li told the Smithsonian Magazine, which featured the study. This calls for more research! Peishu has a promising path before him as he continues his studies at the University of Chicago.

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"Pandas have teeny tiny babies"