Red pandas are some of the world’s most beloved animals– with their thick orange fur and and round faces, they almost look more like stuffed toys than real creatures. But while people love red pandas, for a long time, we didn’t know much about them.

For years, scientists weren’t sure where red pandas belonged on the animal family tree. Like giant pandas, they eat bamboo and have protruding wrist bones, which red pandas use to climb trees. They also have a lot in common with raccoons, since they’re about the size of a cat, have long fluffy striped tails, and dark “masks” of fur around their eyes. Genetic studies have shown that red pandas are more closely related to weasels and raccoons than to panda bears. However, raccoons, weasels, red pandas, and bears (including giant pandas) are all part of the branch of the carnivore family related to dogs!

 

Photo by Mathias Appel

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