Pandas are natural tongue rollers, and the newborn panda cub tentatively being called Yuanzai, or baby “rice meatball,” is no exception either. Right after being born, whether she is yawning, drinking milk or pooping, she continually has on display her natural tongue rolling abilities. Animal caretakers caught an adorable picture of Yuanzai rolling her tongue on July 27. When she grows up she will be able to use her tongue as a straw to drink water.
Chang Shih-hua, chief of the Taipei Zoo’s Panda Reproduction Center, says that tongue rolling is a dominant gene trait, just like in humans, if one parent carries the gene it will be passed on to their children as an AA or Aa combination, possibly giving the child the ability to roll their tongue. If the gene is not inherited, they will not be able to roll their tongue, and it is not something that can be acquired.
The dominant gene for tongue rolling in pandas is stronger than it is in other animals, he says, adding that according to current data nearly all pandas are capable of rolling their tongues, giving the animal a special behavioral characteristic. Many animals use their tongues to lap up water by creating a rippling effect on the surface of the water, but pandas usually roll their tongues to create a straw effect to drink water, leaving the surface of the water relatively calm, Chang says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)