Zoology A Closer Look: Ailurus fulgens

Discussion in 'Zoology' started by pineappleupsidedown, Dec 7, 2004.

  1. pineappleupsidedown

    pineappleupsidedown Premium Member

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    Common Name
    Red panda

    Classification
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Carnivora
    Family: Ursidae
    Subfamily: Ailurinae
    Genus: Ailurus
    Species: Ailurus fulgens

    Geographic Range

    The red panda is found throughout the Himalayan mountains between 2,200 and 4,800 meters in elevation in northern Burma and the districts of western Sichuan and Yunnan. Their geographic range is bounded in the north by the Namlung Valley in the Mugo District and the Lake Rara region of northern Nepal, in the south by the Liakiang Range of western Yunnan, and the northern and eastern boundary is the upper Min Valley of western Sichuan. (Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Habitat

    The red panda lives in temperate climates amongst deciduous and coniferous trees. There is usually an understory of bamboo and hollow trees. The average temperature is 10-25 degrees celsius, and the average annual rainfall is 350 centimeters. (Glatston 1994, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Physical Description

    Though a member of the bear family, the red panda's physical appearance closely resembles that of a procyonid. These animals are approximately 42 inches (three and a half feet) long, with relatively long, furry tails. The tails are marked with about 12 alternating red and buff rings, and are not prehensile. Their head is round; the rostrum is shortened; and the ears are large, erect, and pointed. Long, coarse guard hairs cover the body, and the undercoat is soft, dense, and wooly. The body of the red panda is darker in eastern specimens. Its face is predominantly white with reddish-brown "tear" marks under its eyes. The fur on the upper side of its body is reddish-brown, while ventrally it is glossy black. Its legs are black, and the soles of its feet are covered with dense, white hair. There is no sexual dimorphism in color or size between males and females. The red panda's front legs are angled inward, leading to its waddling walk, and its feet are plantigrade.

    The red panda has a robust skull. Its sagittal crest is poorly developed, its zygomatic arch is widely flared and highly arched, and its postorbital process is poorly developed. The palatines extend beyond the level of the most posterior molar, the mesopterygoid fossa is constricted anteriorly, and the auditory bulla is small. The post glenoid process is large and anteriorly recurved, and the alisphenoid canal is present.

    The mandible is robust but relatively short, and the mandibular symphysis is constricted. The coronoid process is strongly hooked posteriorly, and the mandibular condyles are large.

    The red panda's teeth are not bunodont as in other ursids. Premolar one and molar one and two are wider than they are long and have accessory cusplets. Each upper premolar has more than one cusp, and premolar three has a well developed paracone and hypocone.

    Conservation Status

    The red panda is threatened through deforestation and other human activities. Deforestation effects their nesting sites (trees) and their source of food (bamboo leaves). In addition, armed conflicts lead to pollution, direct death of the animals, and destruction of their habitat. Ailurus fulgens is the occasional target of game hunting, and it is often found in the traps set for musk deer. The red panda is also outcompeted by local livestock for food. The expanding human populations in southeast Asia and the increasing need for land and lumber makes the future of the red panda seem hopeless. The red panda is protected and listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species, and was proclaimed endangered in March 1988. (Glatston 1994, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)