White giant panda discovery in Sichuan, China


This January 2018 video is called Panda albino. However, this is not a real albino, as part of its fur is brown, not white; and its eyes are not red.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Completely white panda found in China

In China, conservationists have found a completely white panda. The characteristic black spots of its peers are missing.

The animal was caught in mid-April by a wildlife camera in a nature reserve in Sichuan province; where there are several nature reserves for the animal species. In the past, brown specimens have sometimes been found.

This 2017 video is about Qizai, the only brown panda in captivity.

Because the photo shows that the animal has red eyes, researchers think it is a unique albino specimen. Carriers of that genetic disorder have white fur and red eyes due to a lack of melanin pigment.

Extra cameras

According to the manager of the reserve, this is a young panda, one or two years old. The animal is in good health given its constant pace. The sex could not be determined based on the camera images.

The reserve will set up additional camera traps in the area to monitor the animal and to establish whether it has contact with other individuals in the area.

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Giant pandas, vegetarians of carnivorous ancestry


This video from China is called Giant Panda SHU LAN eating bamboo (04/2017).

From ScienceDaily:

Giant panda‘s bamboo diet still looks surprisingly carnivorous

May 2, 2019

Giant pandas are unusual in being extremely specialized herbivores that feed almost exclusively on highly fibrous bamboo, despite belonging to a clade (Carnivora) of primarily flesh-eating carnivores. But a study reported in Current Biology on May 2 suggests that the switch to a restricted vegetarian diet wasn’t, in some respects, as big an evolutionary leap as it seems.

The study finds that the protein and carbohydrate content of the panda’s plant diet looks surprisingly like that of a hypercarnivore, animals that obtain more than 70 percent of their diet from other animals, they report. About 50 percent of the panda’s energy intake comes in the form of protein, placing them right alongside feral cats and wolves.

“As we know, the giant panda is a Carnivora species, yet extremely specialized on a plant food, the bamboo,” said Fuwen Wei of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. “Based on what they eat, they absolutely belong to the herbivores, but considering the macronutrient composition of the ingested and absorbed diets, they belong to the carnivores.”

The pandas do have traits in common with herbivores, including a skull, jaw musculature, and dentition that are adapted for fibrous diets, and a specialized “pseudo-thumb” used for handling bamboo. They’ve also lost the ability to taste umami, which is often associated with meat eating. On the other hand, giant pandas have a digestive tract, digestive enzymes, and gut microbes that resemble that of carnivores and not herbivores.

In the new study, Wei teamed up with nutritional ecologist David Raubenheimer from the University of Sydney and colleagues to explore the macronutrient composition of their diet, including what the pandas ingest and what they absorb. Using an approach called nutritional geometry, the team showed that the macronutrient mix that giant pandas both eat and absorb is similar to carnivores, and unlike herbivores. The macronutrient composition of the panda’s milk also places it squarely among other carnivores.

The researchers say the findings can help resolve long-standing questions concerning the evolution of the giant panda, including the unusual transition to extreme specialized herbivory by a member of a carnivorous clade. “In fact”, they write, “the transition was likely more superficial than assumed, combining substantial adaptation to new food types with relatively smaller changes in macronutrient handling.”

The herbivorous diet led to evolutionary adaptations in their teeth, skull, and pseudo-thumb needed to process bamboo. But their gut and digestive system changed little, suggesting minimal evolutionary modification from their ancestral state was needed to deal with the macronutritional properties of bamboo. Their short gut, together with the abundance of bamboo, allows the panda to consume and process large amounts of bamboo, compensating for the low digestive efficiency of such a fibrous diet.

“There is also a broader message from this study,” says Raubenheimer. “It demonstrates the importance of considering both foods and nutrients in understanding the evolutionary ecology of animals. This is what nutritional geometry is designed to do.”

Wei says they will continue to study the evolution and adaptation of the giant panda. They’ll also apply that work to the panda’s conservation management as an endangered species.

Panda ancestors, what did they eat?


This 26 December 2018 video says about itself:

Two Captive-bred Giant Pandas Released into Wild in Southwest China

Two giant pandas, which will be released into the wild, received their final physical examinations on Wednesday at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient pandas weren’t exclusive bamboo eaters, bone evidence suggests

January 31, 2019

The giant pandas we know and love today live only in the understory of particular mountains in southwestern China, where they subsist on bamboo alone. In support of their tough and fibrous bamboo diet, they’ve got distinctive teeth, skull, and muscle characteristics along with a special pseudo-thumb, the better to grasp and hold bamboo stems, leaves, and shoots with. But according to new evidence reported in Current Biology on January 31, extinct and ancient panda species most likely had a more varied and complex diet.

“It has been widely accepted that giant pandas have exclusively fed on bamboo for the last two million years”, says Fuwen Wei of Chinese Academy of Sciences. But, “our results showed the opposite.”

It’s impossible to know exactly what extinct animals ate. But researchers can get clues by analyzing the composition of stable isotopes (different forms of the same element that contain equal numbers of protons but different numbers of neutrons) in animal teeth, hair, and bones, including fossil remains. In the new study, the researchers first analyzed bone collagen of modern pandas (1970s-2000s) and other mammals from the same mountains.

The stable isotopic composition of carbon and nitrogen from modern panda and other modern mammal bone samples indicated three obvious groups: carnivores, herbivores, and giant pandas. The giant pandas were clearly unique, on account of their habit of eating bamboo. Next, Wei’s team measured bone collagen isotopes of 12 ancient pandas collected from seven archaeological sites in southern and southwestern China and compared them to the patterns they observed in modern giant pandas.

The data comparison showed that ancient and modern pandas are isotopically distinct from one another, suggesting differences in their dietary habits. There was also more variation among ancient panda species, suggesting that the niche they occupied was about three times wider than that of modern pandas. That is, ancient pandas most likely had a varied diet, similar to that of other mammalian species that lived alongside them. They were, the researchers write, “probably not exclusive bamboo feeders.”

The researchers suggest that pandas’ dietary habits have evolved in two phases. First, the pandas went from being meat eaters or omnivores to becoming dedicated plant eaters. Only later did they specialize on bamboo.

The researchers say they would now like to figure out when exactly pandas shifted to the specialized diet they have today. To find out, they plan to collect and study more panda samples from different historical times over the last 5,000 years.

Sleeping baby panda discovery in Chinese nature reserve


This 29 September 2018 video says about itself:

Why this sleeping wild baby panda in China is a really big deal

Rangers in the Dafengding Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan province recently came across a sleeping wild panda cub, the first time a cub has been discovered in the wild since the reserve was established 40 years ago.

Prehistoric panda discovery in China


This 18 June 2018 video is called Oldest Known Giant Panda Fossil Found In China.

From ScienceDaily:

22,000-year-old panda from cave in Southern China belongs to distinct, long-lost lineage

June 18, 2018

Researchers who’ve analyzed ancient mitochondrial (mt)DNA isolated from a 22,000-year-old panda found in Cizhutuo Cave in the Guangxi Province of China — a place where no pandas live today — have revealed a new lineage of giant panda. The report, published in Current Biology on June 18, shows that the ancient panda separated from present-day pandas 144,000 to 227,000 years ago, suggesting that it belonged to a distinct group not found today.

The newly sequenced mitochondrial genome represents the oldest DNA evidence from pandas.

“Using a single complete mtDNA sequence, we find a distinct mitochondrial lineage, suggesting that the Cizhutuo panda, while genetically more closely related to present-day pandas than other bears, has a deep, separate history from the common ancestor of present-day pandas”, says Qiaomei Fu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “This really highlights that we need to sequence more DNA from ancient pandas to really capture how their genetic diversity has changed through time and how that relates to their current, much more restricted and fragmented habitat.”

Very little has been known about pandas’ past, especially in regions outside of their current range in Shaanxi province or Gansu and Sichuan provinces. Evidence suggests that pandas in the past were much more widespread, but it’s been unclear how those pandas were related to pandas of today.

In the new study, the researchers used sophisticated methods to fish mitochondrial DNA from the ancient cave specimen. That’s a particular challenge because the specimen comes from a subtropical environment, which makes preservation and recovery of DNA difficult.

The researchers successfully sequenced nearly 150,000 DNA fragments and aligned them to the giant panda mitochondrial genome reference sequence to recover the Cizhutuo panda’s complete mitochondrial genome. They then used the new genome along with mitochondrial genomes from 138 present-day bears and 32 ancient bears to construct a family tree.

Their analysis shows that the split between the Cizhutuo panda and the ancestor of present-day pandas goes back about 183,000 years. The Cizhutuo panda also possesses 18 mutations that would alter the structure of proteins across six mitochondrial genes. The researchers say those amino acid changes may be related to the ancient panda’s distinct habitat in Guangxi or perhaps climate differences during the Last Glacial Maximum.

The findings suggest that the ancient panda’s maternal lineage had a long and unique history that differed from the maternal lineages leading to present-day panda populations. The researchers say that their success in capturing the mitochondrial genome also suggests that they might successfully isolate and analyze DNA from the ancient specimen’s much more expansive nuclear genome.

“Comparing the Cizhutuo panda’s nuclear DNA to present-day genome-wide data would allow a more thorough analysis of the evolutionary history of the Cizhutuo specimen, as well as its shared history with present-day pandas”, Fu says.

Redstarts, other birds in Wolong, China


This 2011 video is called Pandamonium 🙂 at the Bifengxia Panda Reserve in Chengdu, China.

A 2008 video used to say about itself:

Join Animal Planet for Pandamonium, a brand new series that lets us experience the incredible lives of the giant pandas of the Wolong Panda Reserve in China.

The centre is now opening up its remarkable work to the world, giving us the chance to meet the dedicated team that works tirelessly to ensure the survival of this highly endangered species.

Pandas can have a hard time starting a family, so extraordinary efforts are being made to help them breed, using artificial insemination as well as encouraging natural mating.

Watch as tiny panda cubs are born and follow their progress. Each birth is vital to the survival of the species and often hits the headlines around the globe. Thanks to the pioneering research of their scientists, the Wolong Centre has brought 16 cubs into the world over the past year.

But what will the future hold for these unique and lovable black and white bears?

Very soon after this video was recorded, there was the catastrophic May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake; which hit the Wolong Panda Reserve and its surroundings particularly hard.

This video says about itself:

Wolong Earthquake Video from Pandas International

A brief but touching documentary of the damage done to the Wolong Reserve in China after the devastating earthquake of May 2008.

The panda reserve had to move to Gengda, 23 kilometers away.

This January 2013 video is called Crew travels up the long, bumpy road from Chengdu to Wolong.

Though there has been reconstruction at Wolong village, there are still ruins from the 2008 earthquake.

This is a 2007 video about the bridge at Wolong village. The bridge and the river are still there.

After arriving in Wolong from our journey from Chengdu on 7 April 2018, we walked to the bridge at 17:25.

There were rosy pipits there.

This is a 2012 video about a rosy pipit (at one point disturbed by a yellow wagtail).

Then, we saw a blue-fronted redstart.

This is a 2016 blue-fronted redstart video from Thailand.

A rufous-breasted accentor in Wolong.

This is a 2014 rufous-breasted accentor video.

This video shows a Daurian redstart male.

We saw a Daurian redstart in Wolong too.

And its relative, a white-capped water redstart.

This is a 2015 white-capped water redstart video from Thailand.

More Wolong birds; a brown-breasted bulbul.

This is a 2013 brown-breasted bulbul video from Thailand.

We walked along the pond, which used to be part of the panda sanctuary before the 2008 earthquake. Now, there are many pondskaters.

Stay tuned, as there will be more: on the mountains above Wolong and their wildlife!