As per a new study, pandas are not solitary creatures, they are known to have a rather strong social networking system.
Social media has become a crucial aspect of human civilization over the past few years. It is a way for people to stay connected and 'socialize' outside their networks. Surprisingly, humans are not the only ones with this power of 'socialization.' As per a recent study, pandas have their own social media network with which they connect. Like people update posts to increase their appeal on social media, pandas go the route of scents. They chose pandas as their subject of study because of a lack of research regarding their social behavior in the academic forum. In the past, researchers focused only on animals that displayed behavioral patterns like group living. Such practices are quite visible and easy to track, but in the case of pandas, their method of interaction is a bit complicated.
The study's primary researcher, Thomas Connor, pursued the subject for his PhD at Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (MSU-CSIS). As reported by Earth, the scholar spent a lot of time in forests searching for his subjects. Though other studies had already proved that the solitary nature of pandas is just a myth, Connor wanted to understand how these animals interacted with each other. Soon, he observed the practice of scent-marking done by them for interaction.
"Once you've gotten an eye for it, you can see on ridge tops and different trails the scent-marking trees, which are stained with a waxy substance – and the pandas seem to be doing this a lot," said Connor. "It was pretty evident they were exchanging information through scent marking behavior." The marking is a way for the animals to share their life updates and locations with others. During non-mating season, this pattern is used by them to keep their families updated on their whereabouts. In the mating season, though, it is used to enhance the social circle and appeal to new partners.
Secret social lives: Pandas have their own version of Facebook: The experts found that pandas, traditionally viewed as solitary creatures, actually maintain social networks much like humans do https://t.co/PqzyLQhGNN— Earth.com (@EarthDotCom) December 19, 2023
This method is quite similar to Facebook as it is asynchronous by nature. These animals don't need to be in the same place to communicate with each other. Technology aids humans to be as far apart as different countries, in the case of pandas, though the forest is the limit. The next step is to closely monitor the pandas to know the groups interacting with each other through the use of attached cameras. Professor Ken Frank, co-author of this article and an expert on social networks, believes this step to be incredibly important.
"That's a key part," said Professor Frank. "I told him (Connor) that once he has data on which bears are close to each other, we can use the techniques and theories that apply to humans to understand their social networks." During the study, Connor tried to identify the social networks of specific pandas, albeit in a unique way. He analyzed panda poop. Pandas tend to defecate 90 times in a single day which gives researchers plenty of opportunity to collect DNA from their poop. This DNA was then analyzed with the markings on the tree to find out how many animals interacted with it and became a part of the network.
"We defined two panda individuals within a certain distance from each other as an association," said Connor. "Even if they're not directly communicating or running into each other physically – they can exchange information in the chemical scent signature. That built up the social network for the analysis." The route of video proof will provide more concrete evidence.