A study disclosed at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed that panda poo may contain bacteria that could revolutionize bio-fuel production. Giant Pandas eat a diet that is mostly bamboo, and scientists have known that pandas have bacteria in their digestive tract (like termites and cattle) that helps break down the bamboo into usable nutrients. Ashli Brown of the University of Mississippi and colleagues isolated the bacteria by going through panda poo at the Memphis Zoo.
“Our studies suggest that bacteria species in the panda intestine may be more efficient at breaking down plant materials than termite bacteria and may do so in a way that is better for biofuel manufacturing purposes,” said Brown. Current biofuel is made from corn and other food crops (reducing the available food supply) while the bacteria found in panda feces could enable other plant material like wood chips, grass, and crop waste to be converted into biofuel. Moreover, the bacteria’s efficiency could reduce the need for the harsh chemicals and energy that are required for today’s biofuel production.
I found it interesting that pandas could be potentially useful to people merely by pooping, especially in contrast to some people who say that the money spent on panda preservation isn’t worth it. Panda poo is also made into paper which is incorporated into cards and other souvenirs.
[Painting by David Chung]