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Ailuropodinae is a subfamily of Ursidae that contains only one extant species, the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) of China. The fossil record of this group have shown that various species of pandas were more widespread across the Holarctic, with species found in places such as Europe, much of Asia and even North America. [1][2][3][4] The earliest pandas were not unlike other modern bear species in that they had an omnivorous diet but by around 2.4 million years, pandas have evolved to be more herbivorous.[5][6]

Temporal range: Early Miocene–present
Bai yun giant panda.jpg
Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Subfamily: Ailuropodinae
Grevé, 1894
Tribes and genera


Ever since the giant panda was first described to science they have been a source of taxonomic confusion, having been variously classified as a member of Procyonidae,[7][8] Ursidae,[9][10][11] Ailuridae,[12] or even their own family Ailuropodidae[13] This in part of their similarities with the red panda in particular the presence of a "thumb" and five fingers; the "thumb" – actually a modified sesamoid bone – helps it to hold bamboo while eating.[14]

Recent genetic studies have shown that ailuropodines are indeed members of the bear family as they are not closely related to red pandas, which are placed in their own family Ailuridae.[15][16] Any similarities between ailuropodines and ailurids are likely to due to convergent evolution as the fossil record has shown the "false thumb" has been required independently for different purposes.[17] The "false thumb" has actually been found in spectacled bears as well, suggesting that it is a plesiomorphic trait among bears that became lost in the Ursinae subfamily.[18]


The ailuropodines are divided into two tribes the extinct Indarctini and Ailuropodini; the following taxonomy below is after Abella et al. (2012):

  • Subfamily Ailuropodinae (Grevé, 1894)[19]
    • Tribe †Indarctini (Abella et al., 2012)
      • Miomaci (de Bonis et al., 2017)
        • Miomaci pannonicum (de Bonis et al., 2017)
      • Indarctos (Pilgrim, 1913)
        • Indarctos punjabensis (Lydekker, 1884)
        • Indarctos zdanskyi (Qiu & Tedford, 2003)[20]
        • Indarctos sinensis (Zdansky, 1924)
        • Indarctos vireti (Villalta & Crusafont, 1943)
        • Indarctos arctoides (Deperet, 1895)
        • Indarctos anthracitis (Weithofer, 1888)
        • Indarctos salmontanus (Pilgrim, 1913)
        • Indarctos atticus (Weithofer, 1888)
        • Indarctos bakalovi (Kovachev, 1988)
        • Indarctos lagrelli (Zdansky, 1924)
        • Indarctos oregonensis (Merriam et al., 1916)
        • Indarctos nevadensis (Macdonald, 1959)[21]
    • Tribe Ailuropodini (Grevé, 1894)


  1. ^ Ginsburg, Léonard, and Jorge Morales. "Hemicyoninae (Ursidae, Carnivora, Mammalia) and the related taxa from Early and Middle Miocene of Western Europe." Annales de paleontologie. Vol. 1. No. 84. 1998.
  2. ^ Montoya, P., L. Alcalá, and Jorge Morales. Indarctos (Ursidae, Mammalia) from the Spanish Turolian (Upper Miocene). Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum, 2001.
  3. ^ Abella, J., Plinio Montoya, and J. Morales. "Una nueva especie de Agriarctos (Ailuropodinae, Ursidae, Carnivora) en la localidad de Nombrevilla 2 (Zaragoza, España)." Estudios Geológicos 67.2 (2011): 187-191.
  4. ^ Abella, Juan; Alba, David M.; Robles, Josep M.; Valenciano, Alberto; Rotgers, Cheyenn; Carmona, Raül; Montoya, Plinio; Morales, Jorge; O’Grady, Patrick (2012). "Kretzoiarctos gen. nov., the Oldest Member of the Giant Panda Clade". PLoS ONE. 7 (11): e48985. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748985A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048985.
  5. ^ Jin, C; Ciochon, R. L.; Dong, W; Hunt Jr, R. M.; Liu, J; Jaeger, M; Zhu, Q (2007). "The first skull of the earliest giant panda". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 104 (26): 10932–10937. Bibcode:2007PNAS..10410932J. doi:10.1073/pnas.0704198104. PMC 1904166. PMID 17578912.
  6. ^ Zhao, S; Zheng, P; Dong, S; Zhan, X; Wu, Q; Guo, X; Hu, Y; He, W; Zhang, S; Fan, W; Zhu, L; Li, D; Zhang, X; Chen, Q; Zhang, H; Zhang, Z; Jin, X; Zhang, J; Yang, H; Wang, J; Wang, J; Wei, F (2013). "Whole-genome sequencing of giant pandas provides insights into demographic history and local adaptation". Nature Genetics. 45 (1): 67–71. doi:10.1038/ng.2494. PMID 23242367.
  7. ^ Gregory, William King. On the phylogenetic relationships of the giant panda (Ailuropoda) to other arctoid Carnivora. American Museum of Natural History, 1936.
  8. ^ Welker, W. I., and G. B. Campos. "Physiological significance of sulci in somatic sensory cerebral cortex in mammals of the family Procyonidae." Journal of Comparative Neurology 120.1 (1963): 19-36.
  9. ^ O'brien, Stephen J., et al. "A molecular solution to the riddle of the giant panda's phylogeny." (1985): 140-144.
  10. ^ Eichelberger MA, Wildt DE, Bush M (1985) Constructing a molecular phylogeny of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Bongo (Berlin) 10, 175–182.
  11. ^ Pastor, J. F., M. Barbosa, and F. J. De Paz. "Morphological study of the lingual papillae of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) by scanning electron microscopy." Journal of anatomy 212.2 (2008): 99-105.
  12. ^ Wilson, Don E., and DeeAnn M. Reeder, eds. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Vol. 1. JHU Press, 2005.
  13. ^ Thenius, E. "Zur systematischen und phylogenetischen Stellung des Bambusbären: Ailuropoda melanoleuca David (Carnivora, Mammalia)." Z. Saugetierk 441 (1979): 286-305.
  14. ^ Morris, Paul; Susan F. Morris. "The Panda's Thumb". Athro Limited. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  15. ^ Peng, Rui, et al. "The complete mitochondrial genome and phylogenetic analysis of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)." Gene 397.1 (2007): 76-83.
  16. ^ Sato, Jun J., et al. "Deciphering and dating the red panda’s ancestry and early adaptive radiation of Musteloidea." Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53.3 (2009): 907-922.
  17. ^ Salesa, Manuel J., et al. "Evidence of a false thumb in a fossil carnivore clarifies the evolution of pandas." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103.2 (2006): 379-382.
  18. ^ Salesa, Manuel J., et al. "Anatomy of the “false thumb” of Tremarctos ornatus (Carnivora, Ursidae, Tremarctinae): phylogenetic and functional implications." (2006).
  19. ^ Abella, Juan; et al. (2012). "Kretzoiarctos gen. nov., the oldest member of the giant panda clade". PLOS ONE. 7 (11): e48985. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748985A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048985. PMC 3498366. PMID 23155439.
  20. ^ Qiu, Zhan-Xiang; Tedford, R. H. (2003). "Shānxī bǎo dé yìndù xióngyīxīn zhǒng" 山西保德印度熊一新种 [A New Species of *Indarctos* from Baode, China] (PDF). Vertebrata PalAsiatica. 41 (4): 278–288.
  21. ^ MacDonald, J. R. (1959). "The Middle Pliocene Mammalian Fauna from Smiths Valley, Nevada". Journal of Paleontology. 33 (5): 872–887. JSTOR 1300922.
  22. ^ Kretzoi, M. (1942). "Zwei neue Agriotheriiden aus dem ungarischen Pannon". Földtani közlöny. 72: 350–353.