New genetic data gathered from wild pandas can be used to help develop captive breeding programs that help perpetuate diversity.
The giant panda’s immune system is fairly diverse, genetically speaking, suggesting the endangered species may be more resilient to environmental change than previously thought, scientists say.
Biologists estimate that only about 1,500 giant pandas live in the wild today, confined to six isolated mountain ranges in south-central China. Panda fossil remains suggest the charismatic bears once roamed through parts of Burma and northern Vietnam as well, but have since suffered from environmental change and habitat fragmentation, and have been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature since 1990.
Researchers based at Zhejiang University in China who were interested in determining the genetic diversity within the dwindling wild population recently collected genetic material within either the blood, skin or fecal materials of 218 wild pandas from all six isolated mountain ranges the bears now roam.
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