Newly discovered differences in red panda genes reveal there may actually be TWO different species – and it could affect conservation efforts
A new study sheds light on genetic differences between regional red pandasIt suggests red pandas in Sichuan and the Hiamalyas may be different species Findings may also have implications on conservation effortsInterbreeding different species produces sterile offspring
Genetic differences between two types of red panda may be much greater than previously thought.
According to a new study published in Science Advances by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, the eye-capturing animals – which are actually more closely related to raccoons and weasels – may in fact be two different species.
Scientists say the Chinese red panda (Ailurus styani) and the Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens), which were previously thought to be subspecies actually show several substantial differences in their genetic makeup.
The Himalayan red pandas, Ailurus fulgens (pictured) is one of the two regional varieties of red panda studied by researchers
The comparison, which used the genomes of 65 red pandas, found that haplotypes – a group of DNA inherited from a single parent – showed 50 percent fewer genetic mutations in the single letter nucleotides that make up larger strings of DNA.
As noted by New Scientist, the research also showed that there were no common variants in Y chromosomes between the red pandas found in the eastern Himalaya Mountains and those found in Sichuan, China.