Remember Po, the extremely clumsy yet skillful warrior in the movie Kung Fu Panda? Well, you will be amazed to know that pandas in real life can perform martial arts too – they can do the handstand!
Research has shown that male giant pandas (Ailuropoda Melanoleuca) often perform such acrobatic acts to “impress the ladies” and intimate their rivals (National Geographic, 2010). When a male panda scent-marks an object, the height of the mark actually lets other pandas know their size and status. Thus, the males often go upside down on their front paws with the aim of pushing their urine as high up a tree trunk as possible. This is done in the hope of attracting the females and scaring off rival competition (BBC Science/Nature, 2004).
Known to be solitary mammals that have little visual and vocal contact with one another, the endangered giant pandas thus rely heavily on chemical communication through scent. Besides using scent to coordinate mating, these remarkable creatures also utilise it to mark their territory and establish social relationships.
On top of the aforementioned handstand position, there are three other distinct gymnastic postures which the giant pandas often adopt to deposit their individual unique scent: squat, reverse on vertical surfaces and leg cock (Swaisgood, Lindburg & Zhou, 1998). They will rub an acidic-smelling substance, secreted by glands surrounding the ano-genital area, on tree trunks and stones through these various methods (Wanglang Nature Reserve, 2001). The males scent-mark frequently year-round, though increasing significantly during the mating season, whereas the females’ marking behaviour occurs predominantly during the mating season (Kleiman, 1985).
Now, looks like the battle for women is no longer just based on looks.
Images and Video
BBC Wildlife. (2008). “Giant Panda Bear Does Handstand!”. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=006ip4ndThE
Kjdrill. (2008). “Upside down Zhennie during the rainstorm”. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjdrill/2291858483/
Lynch, P. (2008). “Kung Fu Panda”. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://www.thevastpictureshow.com/2008/07/kung-fu-panda-45.html
BBC Science/Nature. (2004). “Panda handstand makes its mark”. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/4043105.stm
Kleiman, D. G. (1985). Social and reproductive behaviors of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Bongo, 10: 45–58.
National Geographic. (2010). “Giant Pandas, Giant Panda Pictures, Giant Panda Facts”. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/giant-panda/
Swaisgood, R. R, Lindburg, D. G., & Zhou, X. (1998). Giant pandas discriminate individual differences in conspecific scent. Animal Behaviour, 57: 1045–1053
Wanglang Nature Reserve. (2001). Panda Facts. Retrieved 4 April, 2010 from http://slack.net/~rd/wanglang/panda_facts.htm