Qinling panda

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The Qinling panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis), also known as the brown panda, is a subspecies of the giant panda, discovered in 1959,[1] but not recognized as a subspecies until 2005.[2][3] Besides the nominate subspecies, it is the first giant panda subspecies to be recognized.

Qinling panda/Brown panda
Qi Zai, the only brown panda in captivity, born 2008
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ailuropoda
A. m. qinlingensis
Trinomial name
Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis
Wan, Wu & Fang, 2005



It differs from the more familiar nominate subspecies by its smaller skull and dark brown and light brown (rather than black and white) fur, and its smaller overall size.[4] Its eye spots are under the lower lid, instead of around the eyes. Brown pandas are exceedingly rare.

Most Qinling pandas are around the same size as a giant pandas, growing to 1.2–1.8 m (3 ft 11 in – 5 ft 11 in) in length and 70–80 cm (28–31 in) at shoulder height. The males of the species are heavier than females, weighing roughly 60–190 kg (130–420 lb) whereas females are likely to weigh 75–125 kg (165–276 lb).[3]

Qinling panda
Traditional Chinese秦嶺熊貓
Simplified Chinese秦岭熊猫

Distribution and habitat


This subspecies is restricted to the Qinling Mountains, at elevations of 1,300–3,000 metres (4,300–9,800 ft). Its coloration is possibly a consequence of inbreeding: as the population is closed off from genetic variation and this might have led to the preservation of the mutation responsible.[2][4]

Conservation and threats


There are an estimated 200–300[5] Qinling pandas living in the wild as of 2023, up from 100 in 2001.[4]

On August 30, 1989, a female of this species was captured and brought to the Xi'an Qinling Wildlife Park to be mated with a regular giant panda. This panda's offspring was black-and-white, but reportedly started becoming brownish as it aged. According to other reports she gave birth to three cubs, all of whom died shortly after being born. The mother, named Dan-Dan, died in 2000.[6]

Scientists captured a Brown Panda along with his mother, a black and white panda, in 2009.[7] They called him Qizai. Research signifies that the change in color was a cause of a mutation. There was a missing sequence of DNA in a gene known as Bace2. Bace2 is a gene responsible for pigmentation in organisms.[7] In order to verify their findings were accurate, scientists underwent an experiment testing mice where they utilized CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing tool.[8] The team was able to manipulate the sequence of the mice DNA by deleting the mutation causing segment. Researchers reported that the 78 tested mice did have genetic changes in response to the experiment. The melanosomes count decreased, as well as the size of them.[8] The coats of the genetically altered mice also had light-colored coats.[7] Additionally, researchers were able to uncover a preserved tissue sample from Dandan, where they concluded she had the same recessive trait as Qizai.[8]

Due to the Qinling subspecies being restricted in range, it has been exposed to metal intoxicates such as copper, nickel, lead, and zinc that are now present in bamboo and soil as a result of the environmental pollution that is ongoing in China. More specifically, studies have indicated that the Qinling subspecies faces such anthropogenic threats so directly due to the fact that heavy concentrations of metals in bamboo and soil are positively correlated with high elevations, thus the Qinling Mountain Range is increasingly affected.[9]

Dental health is important for the survival of the Qinling Pandas. These pandas have a survival rate of 5–20 years. The reliance on bamboo while having a carnivore digestive system results in energy and nutritional challenges and affects the oral health of these pandas. They feed on bamboo for at least 14 hours a day, which causes their teeth to wear out.[10] The most common dental abnormalities that Qinling Pandas face are dental attrition and fractures. These two abnormalities can impact the survival rate of these pandas.[10]

The scientists then conducted a wider analysis of 192 black-and-white giant pandas to verify the responsible gene as Bace2. The mutation causing the brown coats was only present in two pandas hailing from the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi, not Sichuan province, where the majority of China's giant pandas live.The Qinling panda (Brown Panda) is endangered. In fact, there are only around 100 Qinling pandas still living in the wild. The Qinling is a relative of the giant panda, discovered in the 1960s. It's different from the giant panda even though they are closely related and classified as a subspecies of giant pandas.

Qinling pandas much like their relatives the giant pandas, eat only bamboo species. Qinling pandas consume both species of bamboo that grow in the Qin mountains


  1. ^ 闫云霞 (2015-12-01). 在水一方 (in Chinese). Beijing Book Co. Inc. ISBN 978-7-227-06258-5.
  2. ^ a b Zhang, Baowei; Li, Ming; Zhang, Zejun; Goossens, Benoît; Zhu, Lifeng; Zhang, Shanning; Hu, Jinchu; Bruford, Michael W.; Wei, Fuwen (2007). "Genetic Viability and Population History of the Giant Panda, Putting an End to the 'Evolutionary Dead End'?". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 24 (8): 1801–1810. doi:10.1093/molbev/msm099. PMID 17513881.
  3. ^ a b 秦岭大熊猫被确认为新亚种 [Qinling panda recognized as new subspecies] (in Chinese). Chinese Academy of Sciences. 15 February 2005. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Qiu-Hong Wan; Hua Wu; Sheng-Guo Fang (2005). "A new subspecies of giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) from Shaanxi, China". Journal of Mammalogy. 86 (2): 397–402. doi:10.1644/BRB-226.1. JSTOR 4094359.
  5. ^ "The Qinling Panda - Bear Conservation". Bear Conservation UK.
  6. ^ "Sepia Giant Panda". Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  7. ^ a b c You, Xiaoying (2024-03-04). "Genetics solves mystery of rare brown pandas after 40 years". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-024-00614-7. PMID 38438611.
  8. ^ a b c Hunt, Katie (2024-03-22). "Pandas come in different shades, and scientists now understand why". CNN. Retrieved 2024-04-23.
  9. ^ Zhao, Yan; Chen, Yi-ping; Ellison, Aaron; Liu, Wan-gang; Dong, Chen (June 10, 2019). "Establish an environmentally sustainable Giant Panda National Park in the Qinling Mountains". Science of the Total Environment. 668: 979–987. Bibcode:2019ScTEn.668..979Z. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.070. PMID 31018476. S2CID 107733260. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Jin, Yipeng; Chen, Si; Chao, Yanqiao; Pu, Tianchun; Xu, Hongqian; Liu, Xiaobin; Zhao, Kaihui; Nie, Yonggang; Wei, Wei; Lin, Degui (2015). "Dental Abnormalities of Eight Wild Qinling Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis), Shaanxi Province, China". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 51 (4): 849–859. doi:10.7589/2014-12-289. PMID 26280879. S2CID 2894128.