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Traces of Red Panda Found in Tennessee
AOL News ^ | 10 Aug 2010 | Lee Speigel

Posted on 08/12/2010 9:55:51 AM PDT by Palter

It has the face of a giant panda bear and the body of a small raccoon. This unusual, cuddly-looking animal is the red panda, and until recently, was only believed to be native to the mountains of Nepal, Burma and China.

Now, according to recent fossil findings, it appears the enigmatic red cousin to the black-and-white panda once roamed the long-ago forests of Tennessee.

Red pandas currently live in various zoos around America, captivating the public and causing children to beg their parents to buy them one as a household pet.

And if you happen to visit the Washington County area of northeast Tennessee, you'll find paleontologists hard at work, looking for ancient animal bones in a fossil dig pit that was discovered only a few years ago.

It's here, at the Gray Fossil Site, where a startling number of mammal bones have been uncovered, including a saber-toothed cat, ground sloth, rhinoceros, alligator, camel, shovel-tusked elephant, Eurasian badger and a red panda, dating back more than 4 million years to the period known as the late Miocene era.

"They were all found here. I think our list right now is over 40 different kinds of vertebrates," paleontologist Steven Wallace told AOL News. "For example, we've already pulled almost two complete rhino skeletons. Rhinos actually had a pretty long history in North America, but they went extinct about 4½ million years ago, so that's our minimum age for this site."

Steven Wallace and red panda skulls
East Tennessee State Univ. Photo Lab
East Tennessee State University paleontologist Steven Wallace holds the skulls of a red panda fossil (left) and a modern red panda (right) on March 14, 2008.

The site was a former sinkhole that became a pond, covering about 5 acres and discovered during a road construction project in 2000.

"They brought in a lot of geotechnical engineers who noticed that not only was this unusual material, but it was full of bones," said Wallace, the scientific team leader who is also with the Department of Geosciences at East Tennessee State University.

But it's the red panda that's getting all the attention. A fossilized red panda tooth was discovered at the site in 2004.

"Since that time, we found a complete lower jaw of the panda, and over the past two years, we've been recovering an entire skeleton that has a full skull," Wallace said.

But the big news, which hasn't been formally announced yet, was another red panda unearthing at the Gray Fossil Site.

"Our most recent discovery was, literally, two weeks ago, we found another skull," Wallace said. "It's clear that the animal was actually abundant here at our fossil site, and so now we're discovering multiple individuals."

Wallace explained that an important feature of red pandas is that their claws are much larger than one would expect for the size of the animal, a little smaller than an average raccoon.

"The claws are recurved and actually semiretractable, like a cat. They can climb down a tree head first and do it by digging in those claws. What's neat about our fossil is I can tell it also had big, recurved claws, and it may have used those to capture prey, and that's something that I still need to prove."

Wallace has plenty to work with, because, so far, researchers have only excavated about 1 percent of the fossil site.

While the small red and giant black-and-white pandas share the same face, they only really have one other characteristic in common.

"The living giant panda is a bear and the red panda is actually closer to weasels and raccoons, so they're really not related," Wallace said. "It's a misnomer. The term 'panda' literally means 'bamboo eater,' and so that's really all they share is a diet."

News of the most recent red panda fossil skull was first reported on the Cryptomundo website by Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

Coleman visited the Gray Fossil Site about a week ago and was told of the discovery of a new red panda skull.

"They showed us different pits where they were digging for a crocodile, a rhino, tapirs and this one where they found the red panda," he said.

Steven Wallace and Red Panda
Courtesy of Steven Wallace
Wallace holds a baby red panda during a panda workshop hosted by the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee on Aug. 17, 2008.

"I think it's groundbreaking because a lot of these animals are known from one area of the world. If all of a sudden they're found in North America, it gives cryptozoologists a lot of hope that many of these species that we project as mostly Asian actually have a connection between the continents. One thing that I think people often forget is that, in cryptozoology, while a lot of people think there may be brand-new species, cryptozoologists are realistic to know that some of these may be relic survivors."

But how exactly do we know if a 4½ million-year-old red panda was, well, red? Does Wallace and his team of paleontologists really know the color of the panda they just dug up?

"We don't know it's red. I've chosen to use the term red panda, rather than 'lesser' panda, because some people who work on red pandas get insulted if you call it a lesser panda.

"They feel that it's not like it's less important than a giant panda. They prefer to call it a red panda, so that's the only reason I use that term -- ours could have been any color."

At 37, Wallace has many years of fossil discoveries ahead.

"Yeah, I like to tell people that I'll retire long before we're finished out here. The site is so big, I figure I'll dig for the next few decades, and when I retire, they'll still be digging here.

"We have this huge list of animals that we've already found, but the list of animals that we could find is just as big, and then, there's always the surprises -- I mean, I did not expect to find a panda or a Eurasian badger here. Who knows how many other surprises we'll get out here."

Coleman agrees this can only ultimately benefit science.

"I think for science and paleontology, finding another red panda in North America makes us aware that if they've only uncovered 1 percent of the animals at the site, what are they going to find when they keep digging? It's quite exciting -- they could have a whole range of new animals there."


TOPICS: History; Science
KEYWORDS: asia; godsgravesglyphs; panda; redpanda; tennessee
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1 posted on 08/12/2010 9:55:57 AM PDT by Palter
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To: SunkenCiv

Asia, N. America link.


2 posted on 08/12/2010 9:56:37 AM PDT by Palter (Kilroy was here.)
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To: Palter

It’s Helen Thomas.


3 posted on 08/12/2010 9:57:02 AM PDT by oldbill
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To: Palter

Do they taste like chicken?


4 posted on 08/12/2010 9:57:05 AM PDT by umgud (Obama is a failed experiment.)
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To: Palter

5 posted on 08/12/2010 10:02:55 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: Palter

Cute little critter. It sort of reminds me of a Raccoon.


6 posted on 08/12/2010 10:07:03 AM PDT by davisfh
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To: umgud

Well, since the article says they are related to ‘coons, I would say they probably taste something like a raccoon.


7 posted on 08/12/2010 10:07:56 AM PDT by calex59
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To: Palter

So what sort of man (capitalists no doubt) made disaster caused all these animals to disappear from the region?


8 posted on 08/12/2010 10:11:01 AM PDT by Moonman62 (Politicians exist to break windows so they may spend other people's money to fix them.)
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To: JoeProBono

So does their bamboo diet cause them to look similar to the panda?


9 posted on 08/12/2010 10:12:41 AM PDT by Moonman62 (Politicians exist to break windows so they may spend other people's money to fix them.)
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To: umgud

Grilled or Baked?


10 posted on 08/12/2010 10:12:53 AM PDT by jroneil (2010 is all that matter now!)
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To: Moonman62
"So what sort of man (capitalists no doubt) made disaster caused all these animals to disappear from the region?"


11 posted on 08/12/2010 10:14:02 AM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Palter

Not to be confused with a beave-coon....


12 posted on 08/12/2010 10:16:08 AM PDT by treetopsandroofs (Had FDR been GOP, there would have been no World Wars, just "The Great War" and "Roosevelt's Wars".)
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To: Palter

It’s a shame they went extinct in Tennessee.
Them were good vittles!!!


13 posted on 08/12/2010 10:31:12 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: Palter

Japan Game Show: Living with red pandas:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAbuKblNHoE


14 posted on 08/12/2010 10:43:41 AM PDT by Para-Ord.45
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To: Palter

The Red Pansy is alive and well in the White House


15 posted on 08/12/2010 10:55:41 AM PDT by bunkerhill7
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To: Palter
Kung Food Panda ping.


Frowning takes 68 muscles.
Smiling takes 6.
Pulling this trigger takes 2.
I'm lazy.

16 posted on 08/12/2010 11:13:34 AM PDT by The Comedian (Evil can only succeed if good men don't point at it and laugh.)
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To: Palter; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 21twelve; 240B; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks Palter.
It has the face of a giant panda bear and the body of a small raccoon. This unusual, cuddly-looking animal is the red panda, and until recently, was only believed to be native to the mountains of Nepal, Burma and China. Now, according to recent fossil findings, it appears the enigmatic red cousin to the black-and-white panda once roamed the long-ago forests of Tennessee.
Years ago William Corliss had an item in Science Frontiers regarding how the Great Panda is a form of bear, while the Lesser Panda is a relative of the raccoon. Couldn't find it on the SF website though.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

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· Archaeology · The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
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17 posted on 08/12/2010 3:07:16 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: Palter
mammal bones have been uncovered, including a saber-toothed cat, ground sloth, rhinoceros, alligator, camel

The mammalian alligator existed only in America. Mammagator?

18 posted on 08/12/2010 3:27:40 PM PDT by ThanhPhero (di tray hoi den La Vang)
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To: Palter

bert’s home bump


19 posted on 08/12/2010 3:39:34 PM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... Greetings Jacques. The revolution is coming)
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To: calex59

Maybe they aren’t red pandas, just redneck raccoons.


20 posted on 08/12/2010 3:43:07 PM PDT by MediaMole
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