En­ergy-saving pan­das

Down to Earth - - ANALYSIS -

APART FROM chang­ing colours, chameleons have an un­usual trait: their eyes ap­pear to swivel com­pletely in­de­pen­dently. This means that they can si­mul­ta­ne­ously track two com­pletely dif­fer­ent views of the world. Now sci­en­tists have found that chameleons can track ob­jects mov­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions be­fore de­cid­ing which ob­ject to tar­get. They are able to direct the sec­ond eye to where the first eye is gaz­ing, suggest­ing the sec­ond eye has some knowl­edge of where the first eye is di­rected. This un­der­stand­ing would ex­plain how an­i­mals ac­quire vis­ual in­for­ma­tion and how they process it es­pe­cially in case of a thread. This cross-talk be­tween the eyes seems to be sim­i­lar to the cross-talk that gives us binoc­u­lar vi­sion. The Jour­nal of Ex­per­i­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy, July THE UNIQUE en­ergy-saving char­ac­ter­is­tics of the gi­ant pan­das, in­clud­ing un­der­ac­tive thy­roid glands, en­able them to sur­vive ex­clu­sively on a bam­boo diet. Re­searchers stud­ied five cap­tive pan­das and three wild ones, dis­cov­er­ing that the an­i­mal's daily en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture was just about 38 per cent of the av­er­age for a ter­res­trial mam­mal with the same body mass. The study also re­vealed that the an­i­mal's brain, liver and kid­ney are rel­a­tively small com­pared to other bears, and that its thy­roid hor­mone lev­els are only a frac­tion of the mam­malian norm. Science, July 9

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