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A viral video of a giant panda named Meng Aor, which translates to Clumsy Meng, at a Chinese zoo has captured the hearts of viewers worldwide. The panda’s peculiar facial expressions every time it breaks bamboo stalks led to initial assumptions of its naivety, but further insights into its upbringing reveal a touching backstory of … …

The story Clumsy Meng the panda charms with human-like expressions as seen on Thaiger News.

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Pandas do look very primate-like as they feed. This is partly because they have a power grip employing their distal forelimbs. (Their 'thumb' is on their wrist, so it's inaccurate to describe them, as using their hands.) And also because they have shortened, robust facial features, with extra vertical height for absorbing the stresses of biting into the hard bamboo.

It's sometimes said you couldn't tell a panda is vegetarian, by its anatomy. This is nonsense, their bones and teeth are well modified by evolution, and show parallels with extinct chalicotheres, the modern gorillas, and similar mammals making use of their forelimbs during browsing, and their hindguts during thorough digestion.

So people do see human and similar primate attributes, when they watch either the giant panda, or the unrelated red panda. Which domains more impressive: I remember the striger in the After Man book criticised, because carnivores never display a primate-type range of shoulder and feeling mobility. Well the red panda does, and can perform gymnastics like a human. The ability arose from natural selection for reach between supports when climbing.

The so-called panda's thumb is evolved a few times in mammal evolution. For example in New World porcupines, African palm 'civets', and of course, separately in red and giant pandas. Giant pandas are bears, red pandas are survivors of a middle Cenozoic clade of mammals, such as Simocyon. Which was much bigger than its Himalayan relative, certainly no bamboo muncher, and yes, it did share a panda's thumb with the red panda.

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