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Chinese scientists discover evidence of giant panda's population history and local adaptation
Date:12/16/2012

December 16, 2012, Shenzhen, China A research team, led by Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and BGI, has successfully reconstructed a continuous population history of the giant panda from its origin to the present. The findings suggested whereas global changes in climate were the primary drivers in panda population fluctuation for millions of years, human activities were likely to underlie recent population divergence and serious decline. This work reveals a good example for assessing and establishing the best conservation method for other endangered species. The latest study was published online in Nature Genetics.

The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family. Looked upon as the ambassador for all endangered species, it is a well-recognized symbol of international wildlife conservation. The giant panda is currently threatened by continued habitat loss, human persecution, among others. Its dietary specialization, habitat isolation, and reproductive constraints have led to a perception that this is a species at an "evolutionary dead end", destined for deterministic extinction in the modern world.

In this study, researchers carried out whole genome resequencing of 34 wild giant pandas and found the current six geographic populations of giant panda could be divided into three genetic populations, including Qinling (QIN), Minshan (MIN) and Qionglai-Daxiangling-Xiaoxiangling-Liangshan (QXL). Through reconstructing giant panda's population history, they found several important evolutionary events such as two population expansions, two bottlenecks and two population divergences.

The giant panda has a very special bamboo diet, while its ancestor was omnivorous or carnivores. As early as about 3 Myr ago, they probably had already completed their dietary swift and pygmy panda emerged with bamboo as its primary diet. The warm and wet weather at that time provided ideal conditions for the spread of bamboo forests that furt
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Contact: Jia Liu
liujia@genomics.cn
BGI Shenzhen
Source:Eurekalert

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