Do Giant Pandas Have Opposable Thumbs? (Must Read!)

If we talk about how well we know pandas – we might actually be surprised at quite a lot of facts. And some of the things, I learned about pandas are that they were originally carnivores, they have a tail behind their back, and they can eat meat. But here’s an interesting question one of our readers ask us, “do giant pandas have thumbs?”

To simply answer that, Yes! They do have thumbs. In addition, the giant pandas have thumbs that resemble almost human thumbs.

In this article, not only do we dig deeper into the question and answer if giant pandas actually have thumbs, but also go into the science regarding the colors of their thumbs as well! 

Do Giant Pandas have opposable thumbs?

After answering the question, do giant pandas have thumbs in “yes”, the next question that comes to mind is – how many and what do they look like! 

Do giant pandas have thumbs?

Well, they have two thumbs – the front paws of giant pandas are relatively different from the other panda species. This is because giant pandas have a special bone in their wrist that makes it possible to hold bamboo easily. Moreover, the special and extra bone in giant pandas wrist is what we call as a sesamoid bone.

The next question that pops up is that do giant pandas have opposable thumbs? 

Opposable thumbs are those that can be placed in front of – or opposite to the fingers of the same hand. You can take human hands as an example. Thus, giant pandas have opposable thumbs, just like humans. It’s just that they have two thumbs – but humans have only one thumb. These sort of opposable thumbs are best to carry the objects or food such as Bamboo more easily. These help to grip and handle the bamboo quite easily and remarkably!

How many thumbs does a giant panda have?

Well, after “do giant pandas have thumbs” to are the thumbs opposable, we have come across questions like do they have more than one thumbs, unlike the humans? And the answer is yes! They have two thumbs – one as a part of the wrist while the other as the thumb itself. 

The two independently evolved sesamoid thumbs are confusing the idea that they have carnivorous metabolism and would feed more healthy meat and other carnivorous diets. It is quite surprising and intriguing that the carnivorous giant pandas share a taste for bamboo. Isn’t it amazing? Well, not only do they have a single thumb, but they have two thumbs! 

Why do giant pandas need thumb?

The next question in this aspect is that do giant pandas have thumbs, and why do they even need a thumb? If you ever see a panda eating bamboo, you will notice that they have thumb-like appendages to hold the bamboo stalks that they love eating! 

The high gripping abilities make the giant pandas hold bamboo without putting much effort from their already deficient bodies. The reason for their energy deficiency pertains to the fact that their carnivorous bodies have been so changed that they have to take bamboo to survive and fulfill their nutritional requirements.

Do giant pandas have thumbs?

The giant pandas need opposable thumbs to hold anything – particularly food. Without the thumbs, it would not have been possible for them to eat the fruits, vegetables, and other stuff as efficiently as they do now.

What is the panda thumb evolution?

Now that we know the answer to the question that do giant pandas have thumbs, we are going to go back in time to see how the thumbs actually evolved. In the beginning, the giant pandas did not have such defined thumbs. Instead, they had abnormally large wrist bones that they used to hold and grip bamboo perfectly.

However, the researches showed that the panda thumb evolution has a whole story behind it. Let’s get down to it.

According to different researches in different parts of the world, two genes, namely DYNC2H1 and PCNT, are the ones responsible for the development of limbs. However, any mutation in either of these genes could lead to muscle abnormalities – including the development of extra digits both in animals and humans. 

The panda species that evolved with different thumbs shared single amino acid changes in the proteins encoded by DYNC2H1 and PCNT. The researchers have suggested the hypothesis that it’s probably alterations in these two genes that have led to false thumbs in giant pandas.

Do red pandas have thumbs?

So, after do giant pandas have thumbs to do red pandas have thumbs – the answer is yes!

Red pandas do have opposable thumbs, just like the giant pandas, and the experts state that they are mostly for them to grip and hold narrow branches while climbing trees. Although both of them have panda thumbs, the reason why they have them is quite different. Red pandas are more like weasels and raccoons who climb trees; therefore, they have the red to have a better grip of the branches and stalks of trees.

The red pandas and giant pandas are quite different from each other – as they belong to two different species altogether. Giant pandas belong to the family of polar bears, whereas the red pandas are more closely associated with ferrets. However, there is one common thing in both of them, and that is their eating habits.

Both red pandas and giant pandas eat bamboo. And now, when we say that the presence of thumb in giant pandas is associated with their habits of eating bamboo, the question arises that do red pandas (who eat bamboo too) have thumbs too?


It might be astonishing to find out that the giant pandas actually have two opposable thumbs that are very significant. They were so evolved so as to ensure the survival of the giant pandas by offering a more resilient grip of these animals on the bamboo. 

Giant pandas have two thumbs that originally lie opposite to each other – and therefore help to keep food (particularly bamboo) firmly in their grip. On the other hand, Red pandas, despite having resemblances in eating bamboo, have their thumbs evolved for an entirely different purpose. 

The giant pandas’ thumbs are evolved to grip bamboo without wasting much of the energy. On the other hand, the red pandas have thumbs that make sure that they do not fall off the branches of the trees. They tend to climb from one tree to the other just like the raccoons. Hence, they need to have evolved thumbs. For more exciting facts about pandas, keep checking our blog and stay abreast of the latest researches about your favorite animal.