KINGDOM : Animalia
PHYLUM : Vertebrata
CLASS : Mammalia
ORDER : Carnivora
FAMILY [Still debated]: Ailuridae, Ursidae, or Procyonidae
GENUS : Ailuropoda
SPECIES : melanoleuca
Giant pandas are bear-like in shape with striking black and white markings. The "Giant" Pandas are hardly "Giants". It would take about forty (40) giant pandas to weigh as much as one elephant. Adult giant pandas have a length of 160 to 180 centimeters (5 1/4 to 6 feet). The weight of an adult male giant panda is normally between 80 and 125 kilograms (176 and 276 pounds) with males typically weighing about 10% to 20% more than females -- about the same size as theAmerican black bear. However, unlike the black bear, giant pandas do not hibernate and cannot walk on their hind legs.Giant panda bears have a massive head, heavy body, short tail (approximately 5 inches), rounded ears and plantigrade feet (i.e., both heel and toe make contact with the ground when walking in a manner similar to humans). The throat of the giant panda has an esophagus with a tough, horny lining to protect the bear from injury by bamboo splinters. The stomach is similarly protected with its thick muscular wall linings.Giant pandas have forepaws which are extremely flexible. They have an enlarged wrist bone (the radial sesamoid) that works in the manner of an opposable thumb. This highly functional thumb allows the panda to manipulate bamboo stems and leaves, with dexterity and precision. The hind feet of the giant panda lacks the heel pad found in the other seven bear species.
The basic fur color of the giant panda is white with black eye patches, ears, legs, feet, chest, and shoulders. White areas are different shades of white from pure white to orangish or a light brown. Within its natural environment (the deep forest and, at upper elevations, snow androck), its mottled coloringprovides camouflage. There is also speculation that its striking color pattern may be a clear message to other pandas to stay away since the giant panda is an extremely solitary animal.The fur of the giant panda is thick and coarse. It consists of a coarse outer layer and a very dense, wooly-like underfur. To the touch, the fur feels oily. This oily protective coating helps protects pandas from the cool and damp climate in which the bear lives.
Giant pandas generally move in a slow, determined manner. When startled, they will move at a slow trot to escape danger. Giant pandas, with their sharp claws, are capable of climbing trees very easily. Giant panda cubs are born weighing 3 to 5 ounces or about 4-5 grams each (1/900th of the mother's weight) The cubs are born blind and hairless. At about 10 days the skin where the black hair will eventually grow turns gray.