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Tech & Science Red Pandas Might Actually Be Two Species

00:10  27 february  2020
00:10  27 february  2020 Source:   gizmodo.com.au

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Red pandas may use their forepaws alternately to bring food to their mouths or place food directly into Red pandas are able to reproduce at around 18 months of age, and are fully mature at two to In cooperation with the International Red Panda Management Group, they coordinate the Species

Red pandas are about two feet long when they are grown, not counting their bushy, banded tail. The giant panda is in the bear family, and the red panda is the only species in the family Ailuridae. Some of the habitat loss, however, may be beyond local control. “I think down the road what may actually

a close up of a panda: A baby red panda named Seba, seen here at Australia’s Taronga Zoo in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images) © Photo: Getty Images A baby red panda named Seba, seen here at Australia’s Taronga Zoo in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)

Scientists think they’ve helped settle a debate over one of the most endangered (and cutest) animals around: the red panda. New genetic evidence suggests there are really two different species of red panda, each with a unique evolutionary history.

Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are the only mammals of their kind, though they are closely related to raccoons, skunks, and weasels. They’re infamously much less related to giant pandas than their shared name and love of bamboo implies, with the giant pandas being part of the bear family. Scientists have long known that there are two distinct groups of red pandas, typically thought to be separated by the Nujiang River that cuts through Burma, China, and Thailand. These groups have been known as the Himalyan red panda (A. fulgens fulgens) and the Chinese red panda respectively (A. fulgens styani).

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While the panda ’s status has improved, other species are under increasing threat, including the Eastern gorilla that is now These efforts have seen the number of panda reserves jump to 67, which now protect nearly two -thirds of all wild pandas . They have also helped to safeguard large swathes of

Red pandas are small mammals with long, fluffy tails and red and white markings. Though they share a name with the more famous giant panda , they are not closely related. In fact, the name ' panda ' was first applied to these animals, and not to the larger black-and-white bear.

The two populations have historically been considered subspecies, meaning they’re physically different enough that you can tell them apart and live far enough away that they rarely breed with each other. Subspecies are still typically capable of having viable offspring when they do mingle, though, while animals of differing species are more genetically distinct from one another and usually have sterile offspring if they are able to mate (as with anything in life, though, there can be exceptions).

a panda sitting in front of a mirror posing for the camera: A and C are Chinese red pandas, while B and D are Himalyan red pandas. (Photo: Y. Hu et al, Science Advances) © Photo: Y. Hu et al, Science Advances A and C are Chinese red pandas, while B and D are Himalyan red pandas. (Photo: Y. Hu et al, Science Advances)

The Himalayan and Chinese red panda certainly appear different if you’re looking hard enough, with Himalayan red pandas having faces with more whitish fur, while Chinese red pandas have tails that are more intensely red and pale tail rings that are more white. The differences between the two groups, some scientists have argued, indicate that they aren’t just subspecies, but wholly separate species. But up until recently, the authors of this study say, we haven’t really had the tools needed to look closely at the genetics of both groups.

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Red pandas are often killed when they get caught in traps meant for other animals, and are also poached for their distinctive pelts. WWF monitors red pandas and their habitat across India, Nepal and Bhutan to better understand the species .

Pandas are endangered for several reasons, the biggest of which is habitat loss. Because of their specialized diets, pandas cannot adapt to other environments. Pandas also have difficulty reproducing, and some wild pandas are killed by poachers for their pelts.

In their new paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, the researchers reconstructed and analysed DNA taken from blood, muscle, and skin samples of 65 red pandas in the wild, belonging to seven populations in total. They found “substantial genetic divergence between the two species, providing the first genomic evidence of species differentiation.”

Among other things, the team found evidence that the groups have taken different evolutionary paths to get where they are today—differences that could have a real impact on their chances of survival.

Himalayan red pandas, for instance, may have experienced three sharp reductions in their numbers over time, a phenomenon known as a bottleneck, while only having one relatively small population boom. Chinese red pandas, on the other hand, seem to have had fewer bottlenecks and a longer period of population growth. As a result, Chinese red pandas are more genetically diverse, while Himalayan red pandas are more at risk of the harmful mutations that can plague populations with very low diversity.

Genetic study shows the red panda is actually two separate species

  Genetic study shows the red panda is actually two separate species Red pandas, the bushy-tailed and russet-furred bamboo munchers that dwell in Asian high forests, are not a single species but rather two distinct ones, according to the most comprehensive genetic study to date on these endangered mammals. Scientists said on Wednesday they found substantial divergences between the two species - Chinese red pandas and Himalayan red pandas - in three genetic markers in an analysis of DNA from 65 of the animals.

Two Panda Babies Interacting in Wolong, Sichuan in China, where researchers studied the animals to find they are far more adaptable than thought. Vanessa Hull, a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University spent three years stalking giant pandas in China's Wolong Nature Reserve.

Red pandas , like giant pandas , are bamboo eaters native to Asia’s high forests. Despite these similarities and their shared name, the two species are not closely related. Red pandas are much smaller than giant pandas and are the only living member of their taxonomic family.

The team also found evidence that the geographical divide between the two groups isn’t the Nujiang River after all, since panda populations living on either side of the river seemed genetically similar (other studies looking at the skulls of red pandas have suggested the same). Instead, they theorise that the actual barrier keeping those two groups apart is the Yalu Zangbu River, which largely runs through Tibet and is north of the Himalayas. But more research will be needed to confirm that theory.

The authors hope their findings will better guide and motivate conservation efforts for the red pandas. Overall, there are only thought to be 10,000 or so red pandas in the world, but the situation may be even worse for the Himalayan red panda.

“In particular, the Himalayan red panda population spans southern Tibet of China, Nepal, India, and Bhutan, which needs urgent transboundary international cooperation to protect this decreasing species,” the authors wrote.

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