Pandas may have originated in Spain
Scientists believe two fossils discovered in Spain may be of the oldest known ancestors of Asian giant panda.
The fossils reveal the origins of this unique bear, according to Juan Abella and colleagues from the National Museum of Natural Sciences and the Catalan Institute of Paleontology, Spain.
The two 11.6 million year old fossil jaws and teeth were discovered in southwest Europe and represent a new genus likely to be the oldest known members of the giant panda family.
The fossils bear the characteristics of a bear adapted to eating tough plant material like bamboo. The giant panda, native to certain parts of China, is the only living member of this unique bear family with these dietary habits.
"The new genus we describe in this paper is not only the first bear recorded in the Iberian Peninsula, but also the first of the giant panda's lineage," corresponding author Juan Abella said.
The discovery has been published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.