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The Taxonomy and Phylogeny of Ailurus

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Abstract

The red panda belongs to a family, Ailuridae, all by itself, long-separated from other Carnivora. The fossil record fully confirms this early separation. This makes the red panda, as the only living representative of a long separate evolutionary. The turning point in understanding pandas was the anatomical dissection of a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). The earliest molecular study of panda relationships, an immunological study, corroborated Davis's anatomical conclusion that the giant panda is a bear, but placed the red panda as sister to the now enlarged Ursidae, with the raccoon as sister to both. The first subsequent attempt to elucidate the affinities of the red panda itself carefully considered the dental and cranial similarities to, and differences from, the giant panda, other bears, and the Procyonidae; Ailurus was allocated to a separate family, Ailuridae. On balance, the author of this study favored a relationship with the Ursidae, placing the Procyonidae in a separate clade with the Mustelidae. Living red pandas are genetically diverse, and as far as present evidence goes belong to two distinct species: Ailurus fulgens from the Himalayas and perhaps Zhangmu, and Ailurus styani from Yunnan, Sichuan, Burma, and perhaps eastern Tibet.

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... However, this classification and geographical boundary are debated and have remained unclear due to insufficient genetic evidence from the westernmost biogeographical ranges . Relied on skull morphometric data and other secondary information (comparative photographs of specimen of known origin), Groves (2011) thought that these two subspecies should update as two distinct species: Ailurus fulgens from the Himalayan and Ailurus styani from Yunnan, Sichuan, southeastern Tibet and Myanmar (Groves, 2011). However, these pieces of evidence are premature to justify distinct species due to limited sample size and lack of genetic evidence. ...
... However, this classification and geographical boundary are debated and have remained unclear due to insufficient genetic evidence from the westernmost biogeographical ranges . Relied on skull morphometric data and other secondary information (comparative photographs of specimen of known origin), Groves (2011) thought that these two subspecies should update as two distinct species: Ailurus fulgens from the Himalayan and Ailurus styani from Yunnan, Sichuan, southeastern Tibet and Myanmar (Groves, 2011). However, these pieces of evidence are premature to justify distinct species due to limited sample size and lack of genetic evidence. ...
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The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), a vegetarian member of the order Carnivora, is distributed in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China. Many populations occur at low densities in small fragmented forest patches and face pressure from habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, poaching, and developmental activities. Most studies have taken place in China and Nepal; few studies have been conducted in the other countries, creating a gap in documentation. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase our knowledge regarding the ecology of the red panda and its threats. Based on literature regarding the red panda, we attempt to summarize the progress in research on its current distribution, ecology, and existing threats in the wild, highlight conservation approaches and recommend future directions. Recent studies have focused on wild populations; however, earlier studies emphasized captive. China and Nepal have a wider elevational range in red panda distribution (2000–3800 m) compared to other countries. Bamboo mixed subtropical and temperate forest and other associated variables, including a relatively high cover of bamboo, shrubs, and canopy, high densities of fallen logs, relatively steep slopes, and proximity to water sources, are ecologically important in the habitat. Due to differences in methodologies, prior estimates on population size and habitat area have varied. The genetic diversity of red pandas is high in China, but a lack of such data in other range countries makes subspecies classification unclear. Movement, microbiota, pathogens, and threats have been insufficiently documented; thus, we recommended extensive research in these areas. Furthermore, regional cooperation in research, data sharing, and policy implementation are urgently needed to protect wild panda populations.
... It belongs to order; Carnivora, family; Ailuridae, and genus; Ailurus (Wei and Zhang, 2009;IUCN, 2018). The red panda is the only living species of the family Ailuridae and genus Ailurus and is closely related to mustelids, procyonids and skunks (Wei and Zhang, 2009;Groves, 2011). ...
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... Regarded as a separate species from (Himalayan) red panda, A. fulgens, based on differences in cranial and fur-colouration characters (Groves, 2011) and genomic evidence (Hu et al., 2020). ...
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This Appendix provides a detailed (but non-exhaustive) list of the main small carnivoran taxa (n = 72) that have been – to date – the subject of discussions as to whether they should be attributed species or subspecies level.
... It is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as a vulnerable species (IUCN, 2014). The red panda is closely related to mustelids, procyonids and skunks (Groves, 2011). ...
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The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a quadrupedal arboreal animal primarily distributed in the Himalayas and southern China. It is a species commonly kept in zoological collections. This study was carried out to describe the morphology of the pelvis and hind limb of the red panda evidenced by gross osteology, radiography and computed tomography as a reference for clinical use and identification of skeletons. Radiography of the pelvis and right hind limb was performed in nine and seven animals, respectively. Radiographic findings were correlated with bone specimens from three adult animals. Computed tomography of the torso and hind limb was performed in one animal. The pelvic bone had a wide ventromedial surface of the ilium. The trochlea of the femur was wide and shallow. The patella was similar to that seen in feline species. The medial fabella was not seen radiographically in any animal. The cochlea grooves of the tibia were shallow with a poorly defined intermediate ridge. The trochlea of the talus was shallow and presented with an almost flattened medial ridge. The tarsal sesamoid bone was always present. The lateral process of the base of the fifth metatarsal (MT) bone was directed laterally. The MT bones were widely spaced. The morphology of the pelvis and hind limb of the red panda indicated flexibility of the pelvis and hind limb joints as an adaptation to an arboreal quadrupedal lifestyle.
... The red panda (Ailurus fulgens; Taxonomic Serial Number TSN: 621846) is still a little known Himalayan member of Carnivora (Glatston, 2010) that has adapted to a herbivorous diet in a humid environment (Yonzon, 1989;Pradhan et al., 2001;Choudhary, 2001, Wei et al., 1999aGlatston, 2010). Some authors now consider it to be two subspecies: A.f. fulgens (in the western region such as Nepal and adjacent Buthan and Sikkhim), and A.f. styani mostly in China (Groves, 2011). Red panda is generally described to inhabit multiple vegetation types, including evergreen, mixed broad-leaf, deciduous and coniferous forests. ...
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The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a globally threatened species living in the multi-national Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. It has a declining population trend due to anthropogenic pressures. Human-driven climate change is expected to have substantial impacts. However, quantitative and transparent information on the ecological niche (potential as well as realized) of this species across the vast and complex eight nations of the HKH region is lacking. Such baseline information is not only crucial for identifying new populations but also for restoring locally-extinct populations, for understanding its bio-geographical evolution, as well as for prioritizing regions and an efficient management.
... The red panda (Ailurus fulgens; Taxonomic Serial Number TSN: 621846) is still a little known Himalayan member of Carnivora (Glatston, 2010) that has adapted to a herbivorous diet in a humid environment (Yonzon, 1989;Pradhan et al., 2001;Choudhary, 2001, Wei et al., 1999aGlatston, 2010). Some authors now consider it to be two subspecies: A.f. fulgens (in the western region such as Nepal and adjacent Buthan and Sikkhim), and A.f. styani mostly in China (Groves, 2011). Red panda is generally described to inhabit multiple vegetation types, including evergreen, mixed broad-leaf, deciduous and coniferous forests. ...
Article
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The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a globally threatened species living in the multinational Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. It has a declining population trend due to anthropogenic pressures. Human-driven climate change is expected to have substantial impacts. However, quantitative and transparent information on the ecological niche (potential as well as realized) of this species across the vast and complex eight nations of the HKH region is lacking. Such baseline information is not only crucial for identifying new populations but also for restoring locally-extinct populations, for understanding its bio-geographical evolution, as well as for prioritizing regions and an efficient management. First we compiled, and made publicly available through an institutional repository (dSPACE), the best known 'presence only' red panda dataset with ISO compliant metadata. This was done through the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD.org) data-platform to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF.org). We used data mining and machine learning algorithms such as high-performance commercial Classification and Regression Trees, Random Forest, TreeNet, and Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines implementations. We averaged all these Geographic Information System (GIS) models for the first produced ensemble model for this species in the HKH region. Our predictive model is the first of its kind and allows to assess the red panda distribution based on empirical open access data, latest methods and the major signals and drivers of the ecological niche. It allows to assess and fine-tune earlier habitat area estimates. Our models promote 'best professional practices'. It can readily be used by the red panda Recovery Team, the red panda Action Plan, etc. because they are robust, transparent, publicly available, fit for use, and have a good accuracy, as judged by several independent assessment metrics (Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC-AUC) curves, expert opinion, assessed by known absence regions, 95% confidence intervals and new field data).
... It belongs to order; Carnivora, family; Ailuridae, and genus; Ailurus (Wei and Zhang, 2009;IUCN, 2018). The red panda is the only living species of the family Ailuridae and genus Ailurus and is closely related to mustelids, procyonids and skunks (Wei and Zhang, 2009;Groves, 2011). ...
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EXOTIC habitat, rarity, striking coloration, and an appealing countenance have combined to surround the giant panda (Ailuropda melanoleuca) with an aura of mystery unmatched by most other mammals. Nonetheless, we really know little about the species, a lack perhaps best exemplified by the long-standing controversy about the giant panda's phylogenetic position among the arctoid (canoid plus pinniped) carnivores. There is general agreement that its closest affinities are with the ursids (bears) or procyonids (raccoons), but then the argument begins. The usual possibilities considered are: (1) The giant panda's closest relative is the lesser panda (Ailurus fulgens); as this is usually classified among the procyonids, the giant panda should be also. (2) The two pandas belong together in a separate arctoid family. (3) The giant panda is a somewhat aberrant bear and therefore belongs among the Ursidae1,2.
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The Mustelidae is a diverse family of carnivores which includes weasels, polecats, mink, tayra, martens, otters, badgers and, according to some authors, skunks. Evolutionary relationships within the family are under debate at a number of different taxonomic levels, and incongruencies between molecular and morphological results are important. We analysed a total of 241 cytochrome b ( cyt b ) gene sequences and 33 sequences of a complex repetitive flanking region from 33 different species to compile an extensive molecular phylogeny for the Mustelidae. We analysed these sequences and constructed phylogenetic trees using Bayesian and neighborjoining methods that are evaluated to propose changes to the taxonomy of the family. The peripheral position of skunks in phylogenetic trees based on both loci suggests that they should be considered a separate family, Mephitidae. The subfamily Melinae is the basal group within the Mustelidae and trees based on the cyt b gene suggest that the American badger, Taxidea taxus , should be considered a separate monotypic subfamily, Taxidiinae. Otters classified within the genera Lutra , Amblonyx and Aonyx are grouped within the same clade in cyt b and combined partial cyt b and flanking region trees and show reduced levels of inter specific divergence, suggesting that they could be classified together under a single genus, Lutra . The Bayesian tree based on combined data from both loci supports the idea that subfamily Mustelinae is paraphyletic, as otters (subfamily Lutrinae) are included in this subfamily. Low levels of genetic divergence among European polecat, Mustela putorius , steppe polecat, Mustela eversmannii , and European mink, Mustela lutreola , suggest that these species could be considered subspecies within a single species, Mustela putorius . Our results are consistent with a rapid diversification of mustelid lineages in six different radiation episodes identified since the Early Eocene, the oldest events being the separation of subfamilies and the split of marten ( Martes , Gulo ) and weasel ( Mustela ) lineages in the Early Middle Miocene. The separation of New World from Old World lineages and the split of the remaining genera are estimated to have occurred in Late Miocene. The most recent events have been the differentiation of species within genera and this probably occurred in four radiation episodes at the end of Late Miocene, Early Pliocene, Late Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs.
Article
Although it is generally agreed that the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a member of the order Carnivora, there has long been disagreement over whether it should be classified with bears, raccoons or as a single member of its own family. Four independent molecular and genetic measures lead to a consensus phylogeny for the giant and lesser pandas. The lesser panda diverged from New World procyonids at approximately the same time as their departure from ursids, while ancestors of the giant panda split from the ursid lineage much later, just before the radiation which led to modern bears. The giant panda's divergence was accompanied by a chromosomal reorganization which can be partially reconstructed from the ursid karyotype, but not from that of procyonids or the lesser panda. The apparently dramatic, but actually limited, distinctions between the giant panda and the bears in chromosomal and anatomical morphology provide a graphic mammalian example of the discordance of molecular and morphological (and chromosomal) evolutionary change.
Article
The complete 12S rRNA gene of 32 carnivore species, including four feliforms and 28 caniforms, was sequenced. The sequences were aligned on the basis of their secondary structures and used in phylogenetic analyses that addressed several evolutionary relationships within the Caniformia. The analyses showed an unresolved polytomy of the basic caniform clades; pinnipeds, mustelids, procyonids, skunks, Ailurus (lesser panda), ursids, and canids. The polytomy indicates a major diversification of caniforms during a relatively short period of time. The lesser panda was distinct from other caniforms, suggesting its inclusion in a monotypic family, Ailuridae. The giant panda and the bears were joined on the same branch. The skunks are traditionally included in the family Mustelidae. The present analysis, however, showed a less close molecular relationship between the skunks and the remaining Mustelidae (sensu stricto) than between Mustelidae (sensu stricto) and Procyonidae, making Mustelidae (sensu lato) paraphyletic. The results suggest that the skunks should be included in a separate family, Mephitidae. Within the Pinnipedia, the grouping of walrus, sea lions, and fur seals was strongly supported. Analyses of a combined set of 12S rRNA and cytochrome b data were generally consistent with the findings based on each gene.