Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Remains Of Earliest Giant Panda Discovered

Date:
June 19, 2007
Source:
University of Iowa
Summary:
Although it may sound like an oxymoron, anthropologists report the first discovery of a skull from a "pygmy-sized" giant panda -- the earliest-known ancestor of the giant panda -- that lived in south China some two million years ago.

New fossil panda skull, Ailuropoda microta (left), is compared with a living giant panda skull, Ailuropoda melanoleuca (right).
Credit: Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing

Although it may sound like an oxymoron, a University of Iowa anthropologist and his colleagues report the first discovery of a skull from a "pygmy-sized" giant panda -- the earliest-known ancestor of the giant panda -- that lived in south China some two million years ago.

Related Articles


The ancestor of today's giant panda really was a pygmy giant panda, says Russell Ciochon, UI professor of anthropology. Ciochon  is a co-author of an article published in the June 18-22 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Previous discoveries of teeth and other remains made between 1985 and 2002 had failed to establish the animal's size.

Ciochon says that the ancient panda (formally known as Ailuropoda microta, or "pygmy giant panda") was probably about three feet in length, compared to the modern giant panda, which averages in excess of five feet in length. Also, like it's modern counterpart, it lived on bamboo shoots, as indicated by wear patterns recorded on teeth and specialized muscle markings, indicating heavy chewing, on the skull.

The new find, made about 18 months ago in a south China karst (limestone) cave by Chinese researchers and co-authors Changzhu Jin and Jinyi Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that the basic anatomy of the giant panda has remained largely unchanged for millions of years.

Ciochon says that the skull --, about one-half the size of a modern-day giant panda skull, but anatomically very similar -- indicates that the giant panda has evolved for more than three million years as a separate lineage apart from other bears and was adapted to eating bamboo very early in its development.

"Pandas are very unique bears --- the only bear species that is known to exist wholly on a vegetarian diet," says Ciochon. "The evolution of this unique dietary specialization probably took millions of years to refine. Our new discovery shows the great time depth of this unique bamboo-eating specialization in pandas. Thus, pandas have been 'uniquely pandas' for many millions of years says Ciochon."

Ciochon says that the find further helps establish conditions that existed in the region during the varying climatic conditions of the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs, stretching back some three millions years before the present. The pygmy giant panda lived in lowland tropical bamboo forests. It is often found associated with the extinct elephant-like creature, Stegodon, and the giant extinct ape, Gigantopithecus. Today's giant panda is isolated in mountainous upland bamboo forests, partly due to the pressure of modern civilization.

Ciochon, anthropology professor and department chair in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says that he plans to return to China this November to explore new cave sites in collaboration with Chinese colleagues. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ciochon is internationally recognized for his contributions to the fields of primate paleontology and paleoanthropology in Asia concerning "anthropoid origins" and Homo erectus evolution and dispersal.

This research was funded by travel grants from UI International Programs, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Human Evolution Research Fund of the UI Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Iowa. "Remains Of Earliest Giant Panda Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070618174710.htm>.
University of Iowa. (2007, June 19). Remains Of Earliest Giant Panda Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070618174710.htm
University of Iowa. "Remains Of Earliest Giant Panda Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070618174710.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) — Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) — A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins