We've all heard of giant pandas, and we know they are in danger. When a mother panda gets pregnant, she makes national headlines and images of her babies are widely distributed.
But now it seems that the giant panda is unaware of itself.
These fluffy animals have failed a classic test of self-awareness. They cannot recognize themselves in the mirror.
Psychologists use the mirror recognition test to find out if children or animals have self-awareness.
As part of this test, an animal is presented with a mirror. The researchers then observe if he notices a mark on his face or body, which is only visible in the mirror.
If the animal notices the mark, it often touches it or moves around to see it better.
Human children are often tested when they are only two years old.
Many other animals have passed the mirror test, including chimpanzees, bonobos, dolphins, Asian elephants, and even pigeons.
But when the researchers tested 34 giant pandas, none of them touched the marks on their heads.
Instead, each panda reacted as if its reflection in the mirror was another panda. They exhibited attacking behavior and acted as though threatened by their own image, scratching their feet and walking backwards.
The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, is the first of its kind to examine self-recognition in solitary animals, says study co-author Dingzhen Liu of Peking Normal University in China.
The results of this research will help design better enclosures for captive animals, he explains.
For example, a one-way window is sometimes used in their enclosures, which Mr. Liu says can cause stress in pandas when they see their own reflection in the glass.
This is because they might believe it is another panda, rather than themselves.
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