Chinese Scientists Discover Genetic Mutation Behind Rare Brown-and-White Giant Pandas

**Summary:** Chinese scientists have uncovered the genetic mutation responsible for the rare brown-and-white giant pandas. Only seven of these unique pandas have ever been identified, with the discovery shedding light on the fascinating color variation in these beloved animals.


Summary: Chinese scientists have uncovered the genetic mutation responsible for the rare brown-and-white giant pandas. Only seven of these unique pandas have ever been identified, with the discovery shedding light on the fascinating color variation in these beloved animals.

In a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Zoology identified an inherited recessive genetic mutation that causes hypopigmentation in these brown-and-white pandas. This discovery not only explains the existence of these rare creatures but also opens up possibilities for scientific breeding to preserve and understand them better.

The Origins of the Brown Pandas


The first brown panda, named Dandan, was discovered in China's Shaanxi province back in 1985. Since then, scientists have been puzzled by the color variation and its genetic underpinnings. The recent study revealed that both Dandan and a male panda named Qizai carried a specific mutation in the Bace2 gene, inherited from both parents, which likely causes their unique coloration.

While most giant pandas are black and white and originate from Sichuan province, all brown pandas have been found in the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi. The researchers speculate that the Qinling pandas may have diverged from the Sichuan pandas around 300,000 years ago, leading to their distinct characteristics.

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Genetic Insights and Future Implications


Through genomic analysis and CRISPR-Cas9 editing experiments on black mice, the researchers confirmed the role of the Bace2 gene mutation in pigmentation loss. The findings also highlighted potential implications for other traits linked to this mutation, such as Alzheimer's disease in humans.

While both Dandan and Qizai exhibited normal growth and reproduction, further research with a larger sample size of brown pandas is needed to unravel the full extent of the mutation's effects. This discovery not only adds a new chapter to the genetic landscape of giant pandas but also underscores the importance of conservation efforts to protect these rare and enigmatic animals.

For more intriguing insights into the world of science and nature, stay tuned for the latest updates and discoveries.

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