I swear I’ll do something violent if WP Scheduler doesn’t buck its ideas up. Why this post mysteriously appeared last Thursday, albeit it briefly, I’ll never know.

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I learned something interesting a week or so ago. I found it interesting, anyway, so you’ll just have to lump it.

I suppose that most people have a soft spot for giant pandas. They even featured in Deliciously Stella yesterday. Search YouTube and it’s like a special panda edition of Animals do the funniest things!; you can’t chuck a rock without hitting a video of a panda making a nonsense of the relatively simple task of not falling over, and it’s surprising how many of these cute ursines get stuck in trees. Even Snotbag was never that bad.

Here’s the interesting bit. Pandas look for all the world as if they have not five digits on their front paws/’hands’, but six. If it were true, the panda would be at variance with all the other bears, all the primates (including us), indeed most animal with digits.

Way back when, in the Lower Carbonaceous Period (I had to look that up), Mother Nature dabbled with more digits. The eight-digit structures are still found today in the front flippers of cetaceans, but apart from that five has been pretty much the evolutionary weapon of choice. What is it with pandas wanting to break the rules?

The simple answer is that they don’t. What appears to be a thumb is nothing of the sort. It’s a modified wrist bone that’s not articulated, doesn’t move under its own steam, but acts as an opposable thumb.

That’s pretty nifty evolution isn’t it? For reasons known only to pandas, they’ve evolved to not be carnivores (they occasionally eat small rodents and the like just to keep their eye in) but guzzlers of gargantuan quantities of bamboo. This is tricky stuff to handle without an opposable thumb, as you’ll know if you’ve ever watched your cat try to pick up a pencil. The nobbly wrists give them just a bit more control. Brilliant.

Please don’t try and tell me this is yet more evidence of intelligent design, because we’ll fall out. Just go ‘Awwww,’ at the picture, eh?

panda

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