Chinese researchers unravel mystery of brown giant pandas

Chinese researchers unravel mystery of brown giant pandas
via CCTV中文
Ryan General
16 days ago
Chinese scientists have unlocked the genetic mystery behind the brown-and-white giant panda, a rare variation found only in China’s Qinling Mountains.
Key points:
  • Researchers have been fascinated by this unique fur color variation since the discovery of Dandan, a female brown-and-white panda, in 1985.
  • The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month, found that a natural genetic variation is causing the distinctive brown hue.
  • The discovery provides insights into the genetic basis of coat color variation in giant pandas and could aid in conservation efforts.

The details:
  • Since Dandan, there have been only 11 reported sightings of brown-and-white pandas documented through official news sources or personal accounts shared with scientists.
  • For the study, scientists closely examined the genetic data of Qizai, a brown and white panda rescued as a cub in 2009. His fur showed smaller and fewer melanosomes (pigment cells) compared to that of black and white pandas.
  • The researchers discovered that a mutation in a specific gene, called Bace2, disrupts the instructions for building proteins, ultimately leading to the panda’s unique coat.
  • The study’s findings suggest that the mutation is likely a neutral or weakly deleterious trait, with no significant negative impacts on the brown panda’s reproductive capabilities and overall health.
What’s next:
  • Scientists say future studies will focus on exploring the potential physiological impacts of the Bace2 gene mutation and its implications for the overall health of brown pandas. A deeper understanding of how this mutation affects pigment cells could also guide captive breeding programs for the species, which is classified as vulnerable in the Red List of Threatened Species.
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