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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 09:46, January 13, 2006
Giant Panda has a new sub-species
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Chinese researchers specialized in giant panda have discovered a new species, Qinling sub-species of panda.

Photo:A Qinling panda climbing a tree
A Qinling panda climbing a tree
The research team was led by professor Fang Shengguo from Zhejiang University and also a member of the expert committee in panda protection and management under the Administration of National Forestry. The team has studied and compared the two kinds of pandas from Sichuan and Qinling areas in their genes and the differences in their body forms. As a marked achievement of the national 973 project, the research has passed the appraisal by experts from the Ministry of Science and Technology and won high commend.

Meanwhile, the US Mammal Zoology Magazine has published an article by the team led by Fang Shengguo. The article for the first time divided Chinese pandas into two kinds-- Sichuan species and Qinling species. This means the discovery of Qinling panda sub-species is recognized by international zoological circle.

One kind is like a cat with a round head, the other is like a bear with a long head, Qinling panda and Sichuan panda are different kinds of pandas.

Sub-species is the prelude of forming a new species, which will enrich biodiversity in genes. Experts say when certain population of one species meets the following three conditions, the population should be a new kind. The three conditions are independent geographical distribution, independent evolution history and identical morphological and gene differences.

Fang Shengguo told reporters that giant pandas distribute in six mountain ranges including Qinling, Minshan, Qionglai, Liangshan, Daxiangling and Xiaoxiangling in Shaanxi, Gansu and Sichuan provinces. The distribution of Qinling giant pandas have isolated from that of Sichuan giant pandas since 12 thousand years ago. Thus, it accords with the first condition.

After long time isolation and the suspension of exchange of genes, the genes of the two groups of pandas have split up and become completely different population after 12 thousand years evolution.

Judging from their genes, Qinling giant pandas are closer to their ancestors while Sichuan pandas experienced faster evolution. Thus Qinling panda accords with the second kind of classification to become a new sub species.

The two kinds of pandas are so different in their figures. Sichuan panda's head is long and looks like a bear while the Qinling panda's head is round and looks like a cat, and the skull bone is small but the teeth are big. In their hair color, Qinling panda's chest is light brown, its chest hair is brown while Sichuan panda's chest is black and its chest hair is white. Qinling panda has obvious differences from pandas in other mountains. The difference is identical to that of genes. This accords with the third condition. Due to the differences, Qinling pandas look more beautiful and lovely, Shaanxi people call them "the beauty among the national treasures"

To protect the purity of Qinling sub species of panda, experts suggest integrating the existing protection zones.

A survey shows that currently there are 273 Qinling giant pandas. "Qinling pandas population are seriously endangered." said Yong Yange, director of the Giant Panda Research Center and senior engineer in Foping National Natural Protection Zone in Shaanxi province.

Yong Yange has studied giant pandas for 30 years. He said Wolong area in Sichuan province has solved the three difficulties in mating, pregnancy and nurturing the baby panda in artificial reproduction of pandas. It has successfully reproduced more than 100 pandas through artificial breeding. But Qinling pandas' artificial breeding is not as good as that in Wolong, thus it is a severe challenge to protect Qinling pandas.

Chen Jianwei, deputy director of the National Administration Office of Import and Export of Endangered Species is very concerned with Qinling panda. He proposed that effective measures should be taken to protect the purity of the Qinling panda. For example, the designed wildlife corridor project between Qinling and Minshan should stop to avoid the hybrid of the two species.

At present, Qinling has established too many natural protection zones including 16 pandas protection zones. As a result, the different zones such as core zone, experimental zone and buffer zone have divided the area where pandas live.

"We shouldn't do a bad thing with a good will." said Chen Jianwei, "we must integrate the protection zone and establish an integrated zone according to the ecological system for panda and take coordinated management method to protect these pandas."

By People's Daily Online


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