I couldn't seem to find one elsewhere, at least not with a scientific source.

It would seem as it's quite a striking feature there would be an advantage it would infer.

  • $\begingroup$ From Wikipedia: "Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, speculation suggests that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage in their shade-dappled snowy and rocky habitat." With a reference to Giant Pandas by Karen Dudley (1997). $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    May 8, 2014 at 23:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ One can create a selectionist explanation for any trait, but all such explanations have very little scientific content. $\endgroup$
    – alephreish
    May 9, 2014 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ It could be related to stopping light glare too, not entirely sure why a panda would need that but living in snowy areas there is a lot of sun glare... athletes use this trick, particularly in ball sports en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_black but remember, not everything has some wonderful evolutionary explanation, some stuff just exists for no real reason. $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    May 9, 2014 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


As your commenters have suggested, no.

In order for an explanation to be a good evolutionary explanation, it needs to have a testable hypothesis and a mechanism to test it.

The most common mechanism for testing the crypsis (camouflage) hypothesis is to take a large number of closely-related species, and see if their coloration differences are correlated to a particular habitat. Since pandas have few black-and-white relatives, there is no statistical power in this analysis.

Another option is to take a large number of pandas, create a treatment and control group and bleach the treatment group (or their eyespots) white, and compare survival or visual acuity. Unsurprisingly, this has not been done.

Here's a nice article to animal coloration for those that have access:

Caro, T. I. M. (2005). The adaptive significance of coloration in mammals. Bioscience, 55(2), 125-136.


I quite like the explanation I found on the website of "Exploring the BioEdge". Robin and Honeybadger explain the black and white colouration as follows: To minimize the risk of being attacked by the tiger, the colouration of the giant panda is aposematic, warning would-be predators of its vice-like hug and bite. This warning signal, visible even in poor light, consists of a black-and-white contrast on the face (ears and eyes) as well as the body as a whole.”



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