Far to the east where the mist swirls through the conifer-covered peaks of the Qionglai Mountains of China, where a kaleidoscope of colors can be seen during the autumn and rhododendron flowers decorate the hillsides, lives a mysterious creature, the panda. An ancient Chinese story says that this mysterious creature was once befriended by a young girl who died. The pandas were struck with sorrow when she died and rubbed their eyes with their arms as they wept at her funeral. The dark color of their arm bands wiped off into their eyes. They hugged themselves and marked their ears, shoulders, hind legs and rumps, resulting in the unique markings that we see on the pandas today.
Pandas are creatures that have mystified us for centuries. Even scientists have had difficulty with classifying them and they are now considered to be living fossils. They have a digestive tract of a carnivore, including the sharpened teeth, and they will eat things such as eggs, fish, and insects, but over 99% of their diet consists of bamboo. Bamboo is a very poor nutritional source, but for some reason, they have developed adaptations to eating bamboo such as an extra digit on their hand to help them tear the bamboo and extremely muscular stomach walls covered in mucus to help them digest a diet of wood and prevent them from getting splinters.
Giant pandas walk with a pigeon toed gait and have snouts and ears that are similar to that of a raccoon. Because of the way their snouts and ears are shaped, they were once classified as members of the raccoon family. However, after examining their DNA, molecular biologists have determined that the giant panda is more closely related to members of the bear family and the red panda is more closely related to the raccoon family.