Ailuridae is a family in the mammal order Carnivora. The family includes the Red Panda (the sole living representative) and its extinct relatives.
Frédéric Georges Cuvier
first described Ailurus
as belonging to the raccoon family in 1825 and this classification has been controversial ever since. It was classified in the raccoon
) because of morphological
similarities of the head, colored ringed tail, and other morphological and ecological
it was assigned to the bear family (Ursidae
Molecular phylogenetic studies show that as an ancient species in the order Carnivora, the Red Panda is relatively close to the American Raccoon and may be either a monotypic family or a subfamily within the procynonid family. An in-depth mitochondrial DNA population analysis study stated: “According to the fossil record, the Red Panda diverged from its common ancestor with bears about 40 million years ago (Mayr 1986). With this divergence, by comparing the sequence difference between the red panda and the raccoon, the observed mutation rate for the red panda was calculated to be on the order of 109, which is apparently an underestimate compared with the average rate in mammals. This underestimation is probably due to multiple recurrent mutations as the divergence between the Red Panda and the raccoon is extremely deep.”
The most recent molecular-systematic DNA research places the Red Panda into its own independent family Ailuridae. Ailuridae are in turn part of a trichotomy within the broad superfamily Musteloidea (Flynn et al., 2001) that also includes the Mephitidae + Mustelidae (skunks + weasels) and the Procyonidae (raccoons); but it is not a bear (Ursidae), as is the Giant Panda.
Red Pandas have no close living relatives, and their nearest fossil ancestors, Parailurus, lived 3-4 million years ago. There may have been as many as three different species of Parailurus, all larger and more robust in the head and jaw, living in Europe and Asia but possibly crossing the Bering Strait into America. The Red Panda may be all that's left - a specialized offshoot surviving the Ice Age in a Chinese mountain refuge.
In addition to Ailurus
, the family Ailuridae includes eight extinct genera, most of which are assigned to two subfamilies, Ailurinae and Simocyoninae..
- Davis, Davis D. (1964). “The Giant Panda: A Morphological Study of Evolutionary Mechanisms.“ Zoology Memoirs. Vol. 3:1-339.
- Decker D.M. and W.C. Wozencraft. (1991). “Phylogenetic Analysis of Recent Procyonid Genera.“ Journal of Mammalogy. Vol. 72 (1): 42-55.
- Flynn, J.J. and G.D. Wesley Hunt. (2005a). “Carnivora.“ in The Rise of Placental Mammals: Origin, Timing and Relationships of the Major Extant Clades, by D. Archibold and K. Rose. Baltimore. ISBN 080188022X
- Flynn, John J., et al. (2005b). “Molecular phylogeny of the Carnivora (Mammalia): ASS-ASS the impact of increased sampling to on resolving enigmatic relationships.“ Systematic Biology. Vol. 54 (2):1-21.
- Flynn, John J. Flynn, Michael A. Nedbal, J.W. Dragoo, and R.L. Honeycutt. (1998) "Whence the Red Panda?" Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Vol. 17, No. 2, November 2000, pp. 190-199.
- Glatston, A.R. (1989). Talk Panda Biology. The Hague. ISBN 9-051-03026-6
- Glatston, A.R. (compiler) (1994). “The Red Panda, Olingos, Coatis, Raccoons, and their Relatives: Status survey and conservation action plan for Procyonids and Ailurids.”
- IUCN/SSC Mustelid, Viverrid, and Procyonid Specialist Group. IUCN/SSC, Gland, Switzerland.
- Gregory, W.K. (1936). “On the Phylogenetic Relationships of the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda) to other Arctoid Carnivores.“ American Museum Novitates. Vol. 878:1-29.
- Hu, J.C. (1990). “Proceedings of studies of the red panda.” Chinese Scientific Publishing, Beijing, China [in Chinese].
- Wilson, Don E. and DeeAnn M. Reeder. (2005). Mammal of Species of the World. Johns Hopkins University press. ISBN 0801882214.