Why the recent discovery of an extinct panda that lived in Europe millions of years ago worries China

Male giant panda Anne Ann shakes a “puzzle feeder” at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, China (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

The discovery of the extinct panda that lived in the forests and swamps of Europe millions of years ago can revive Controversy over whether the ancestors of the Chinese national animal actually came from the ancient continent.

Discover a scientific team A new species of panda that roamed the forested wetlands of Bulgaria about six million years ago It is the last known and most advanced European giant panda.

The description of this current panda relative was published in the magazine Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology According to the researchers, The discovery shows that historical discoveries in palaeontology “can lead to unexpected results, even today.”

State media report 2017 china daily He claimed that the controversy over the geographical origin of the panda dates back to the 1940s, when its fossils were found in Hungary. however, The giant panda is a national symbol in China, and the idea that their ancestors came from Europe is not very popular in the Asian countryto me NBC News. china daily He said the idea ‘It’s still too early’citing an expert from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to explain that pandas could have lived in Asia and Europe at different stages of their evolution.

A panda eating watermelon ice cream on a bamboo stick (Reuters/Susanna Vera)
A panda eating watermelon ice cream on a bamboo stick (Reuters/Susanna Vera)

“The fossil data show that the oldest members of this group of bears were found in Europe, and that the European fossils (species) are more numerous.”Said the lead author of the study, a paleontologist Nikolai Spasovfrom the Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History in Sofia, according to NBC News. “This suggests that the group may have evolved in Europe and then headed to Asia, where it later evolved into the modern giant panda ‘Iloropoda’,” he adds.

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The researchers reached their conclusions thanks to two tooth fossils Found in the 1970s and now unearthed from the bowels of the Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History.

Although it is not a direct ancestor of the modern giant panda genus, it is a close relative of it. Explains Spasov, who explained that this is not exclusively based on bamboo.

The teeth were originally classified by paleontologist Ivan Nikolov, who added them to the museum’s collection of fossilized treasures when they were discovered in northwest Bulgaria; This is new The species was named “Agriarctos nikolovi” in his honor.

The coal deposit in which the teeth were found – which have been impregnated with black – It indicates that this ancient panda inhabited forest and swamp areas.

Giant panda Shin Shin (Reuters / Toya Sarno Jordan)
Giant panda Shin Shin (Reuters / Toya Sarno Jordan)

paleontologist David BegonD., a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, was not involved in the latest study, but was part of the team that analyzed the fossilized teeth and jaws of a 10-million-year-old panda found in Hungary in 2013.

I confirm it Science cannot yet determine whether pandas originated in Asia or Europe.

“We have a good fossil record in Europe that started at least 11.6 million years ago, but we don’t have a complete fossil record in Asia from the same time period. So It’s impossible to tell if they’re there too, but they haven’t found out yet‘, announced to NBC News.

Begon suspects that the breeding process of modern giant pandas, which played a role in their decline, may be an evolutionary adaptation to the limited resources in their environment that earlier pandas did not share.

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“I cannot imagine that such a large-scale and successful lineage spread throughout Western Europe And China has managed to survive for a long time with the reproductive biology of live pandas.”

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