When It Comes To This Brown Panda, It’s Not Always Black And White

Cassie Boss - Author
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Aug. 21 2013, Updated 1:20 p.m. ET

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QiZai, a rare brown and white panda, was recently shown to the media for the first time, and he is making quite the splash.

According to AsiaOne, there have been cases of brown pandas documented in the past, bt QiZai is the only one of his kind that is now in captivity.

He was found and captured when he was a two-month old baby in northwest China in 2009.

His mother, who was nearby when he was found, was reported to have normal black-and-white coloring.

Pets Lady Blog stated that the panda is housed at the Shaanxi Wild Animal Centre and is only the seventh Brown Giant Panda recorded in the last 25 years.

“It’s estimated that only 200 to 300 Qinling pandas currently live in the wild, and the vast majority of these show only small patches of brownish hair mixed in with their black fur.”

Tiejun Wang, a spatial ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, stated to Nature, “It’s time we had a debate about what is causing this (the strange brown coloring) because it could be telling us something very important.”

Wang suggests that the coloring could be a product of breeding between closely related pandas.

Nature reported that each panda has two versions, or alleles, of each of its genes, one inherited from its mother and one from its father.

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Wang suggests that the Qinling pandas carry a dominant gene for black fur and a recessive gene for brown fur.

This means that pandas with brown-and-white fur are only possible when they inherit the recessive brown gene from both mother and father.

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Wang suggests that the chances that both parents have the brown allele are ordinarily very low, and that the coincidence would be much more likely if the pandas were closely related.

“The habitat in the Qinling Mountains is seriously fragmented and the population density is very high,” says Wang. “The brown pandas could be an indication of local inbreeding.”

But even if it is more likely that the brown coloring comes from inbreeding, there is still a chance that this coloring is just a random chance happening.

What do you think of QiZai, the rare brown panda?

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