Strange Relations: A Close Relative of Ireland’s Badgers and Stoats is Asia’s Red #Panda : The weasel family, #Mustelidae , is one of the best-represented mammal groups in Ireland, including four native forms, the #badger , #stoat , #otter , and pine marten, as well as non-natives like the feral #ferret and American #mink . As the name of the latter suggests, its original home lies thousands of kilometres to the west of #Ireland , but in the opposite direction, thousands of kilometres to the east, in the #bamboo forests stretching from the #Himalayas to south #China , there lives a fascinating little #mammal that is one of the closest relatives of the #weasel family – the red panda.
The red panda’s scientific name, #Ailurus fulgens, means ‘shining cat’ or ‘fire-coloured cat’, referring to its similarity in size to a large housecat and its distinctive coat, with one expert nicely noting how it is ‘flamboyantly clad in chestnut, chocolate and cream’, while the first man to publish a scientific description declared it “quite the most handsome mammal in existence”. But although the red panda is sometimes referred to as the ‘cat-bear’, or ‘bear-cat’, for much of the last 200 years no one was entirely sure what its exact affinities were, and it was variously placed in the #raccoon family, the bear family, in a family with the giant panda, or elsewhere. Latest genetic studies, though, place this handsome furball in a family all its own, #Ailuridae , but also as a member of the superfamily Musteloidea to which the weasel family belongs, meaning Ireland’s badgers, stoats, etc., are more closely related to this denizen of far distant bamboo forests than, say, the dogs or cats they share the island with.
#theevolutionofireland #evostrangerelations #redpanda #giantpanda #ailurusfulgens #asia #stephendaly - 5 hours ago