Giant pandas like sweets, but prefer the natural ones

Giant pandas can taste sweetness, a finding that could help with conservation of the animals, scientists say.

Asio otus/Wikimedia Commons

When given the choice of plain or sweetened water, giant pandas go for the sugary drink. And, they prefer the natural kind.

The pandas lap up water flavored with fructose and sucrose but aren’t as interested in artificial sweeteners, scientists report March 26 in PLOS ONE. The team tested the finding by isolating the genes that give the animals their sweet tooth and inserting them in human cells. The cells reacted strongly to natural sweeteners but not artificial ones. The result could help with conservation efforts to maintain the giant pandas’ population.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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