Part of the show Science of Sight, Eye Diseases and Animal Vision
Even though giant pandas are black and white, doesn't mean that they can only see in black and white - because this week we have news from scientists in America who discovered that giant pandas are not colour blind but can distinguish colours from greys. Angela Kelling, a graduate researcher from the Georgia Institute of Technology, worked with Yang Yang and Lun Lun, a couple of giant pandas that live in Zoo Atlanta. She found that they were able to distinguish between colours as well as various shades of grey. To find this out, she conducted a two year study in which she presented the two pandas with three PVC pipes each hung underneath a sheet of paper - two of the pipes were hung beneath grey paper and the third was under coloured piece of paper - either red, green or blue. If the panda pushed against the pipe underneath the coloured paper it received some food as a reward. But if it pushed one of the pipes underneath the grey paper they got no reward. She repeated the tests over and over with different colour combinations and found the pandas were able to distinguish the coloured paper from the grey paper because once they had learned that the colour paper meant food they pushed the coloured paper more often than the grey paper. We still don't know much about the type of colour vision that pandas have, and from this study its not clear whether the pandas could tell the difference between red green and blue. But now we know that they can tell the difference between grey and other colours and that might help them forage better among the green bamboo that they spend the majority of their day eating.