Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I wonder if Amanda has any comments....

I could help thinking of Pandagon when I saw this bit of news on ScienceDaily

Remains Of Earliest Giant Panda Discovered

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.

The remains were found 18 months ago, and shows that pandas have remained relatively unchanged through the last couple of million years, both in regards to anatomy and to diet.

"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.

The article was brought in the June 18-22 online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but unfortunately it's behind a paywall.

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