Scientists have found that Chinese red pandas and Himalayan red pandas are two different spp. The study is based on genetic study using three genetic markers.
- Conservation biologists of Chinese Academy led the most comprehensive genetic research to study the endangered red panda. Their study has been published in the journal Science Advances.
- Red pandas, the bushy-tailed and russet-furred mammals that dwell in Asia’s high forests, are not a single species but rather two distinct spp.
- Analysis shows substantial divergences between the two species – Chinese red pandas and Himalayan red pandas – in three genetic markers of DNA .
- Study was conducted on 65 animals.
- Scientists previously recognised red pandas as divided into two subspecies.
- While it had been proposed that these were separate species, the new study was the first to provide the genetic data necessary to allow such a judgment.
- They are probably most closely related to a group that includes weasels, raccoons and skunks.
- The two species also differ in coloration and skull shape.
About Chinese Red Panda:
- Chinese red pandas are found in northern Myanmar as well as south-eastern Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China.
- The tail rings of the Chinese red panda are more distinct.
About Himalayan Red Panda:
- Himalayan red pandas are native to Nepal, India, Bhutan and southern Tibet in China.
- The Himalayan red panda has more white on the face.
- Himalayan red panda, has dark tail rings being more dark red and the pale rings being more whitish.
- The Himalayan red panda is the scarcer of the two and needs urgent protection because of low genetic diversity and small population size.
- The Yalu Zangbu River most likely marks the geographical boundary separating the two species, not the Nujiang river as previously believed.
- Estimated population red panda in the wild is about of 10,000.
- Major threats to red pandas include deforestation and degradation of their habitat due to human development.
- IUCN Status: Endangered.
- To conserve the genetic uniqueness of the two species, their interbreeding in captivity should be avoided.
- Interbreeding between species may harm the genetic adaptations already established for their local habitat environment.
- The recognition of the existence of two separate species could help guide conservation efforts for a mammal as its numbers dwindle in the wild, they added.
Do you know?
Despite similar names, red pandas and giant pandas are not closely related.
- Giant pandas are one of the world’s eight bear species.
- Red pandas, with no close living relatives, are sometimes called living fossils as the only remaining member of the Ailuridae mammalian family.