UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Is Panda bear related to Raccoon?
Answer 1:

Panda bears and raccoons are in different families. Giant pandas are in the bear family (Ursidae). You can see a “family tree” of the bears at:

family tree

Just keep scrolling down until you get to the bear pictures.

The way to read these diagrams is to start at the end with the pictures. The lines show which groups are the closest relatives. If you look at the top, you can see that polar bears (U. maritimus) are closely related to grizzly bears (Ursus arctos). You can tell this because the lines that go from those two species split later than all of the other lines. Now look at the panda bear or giant panda (A. melanoleuca). It is way off by itself. This means that pandas started on their own evolutionary pathway a long time before the other bears did.

The raccoons are in a family with ringtails, coatis, and kinkajous (Procyonidae). A family tree for Procyonidae is at:

Procyonidae

Just keep scrolling down until you get to the raccoon pictures.

Both of these families and a lot of other families (the cat family, the dog family, the skunk/weasel/otter family, etc.) belong to the Order Carnivora. If you go to this site:

Order Carnivora and look at figure 1, you will see a family tree of the Order Carnivora.

In the past, people thought that the raccoon family and the bear family were very closely related. This picture shows a newer idea about the Carnivora family tree. It is based on DNA. The red panda and the giant panda have similar names, but you can see that the red panda is not a bear. Some scientists put the red panda in the raccoon family. The new picture shows the idea that red pandas might be so different from other carnivores that they should have their own family.

When you look at the pictures, what do you notice that is different about the bears and the animals in the raccoon family?

If you are interested in animals like these, and their relationships, you may want to become a mammalogist.

Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

This is an interesting question. I think the answer depends on how closely related we're trying to see they are. When we classify living organisms, we divide them in the following way:

1. many species belong to a:
2. genus; many genera belong to a:
3. family; many families belong to an:
4. order; orders belong to a:
5. class; classes belong to a:
6. phylum; phylums are part of a
7. kingdom, and kingdoms belong to different:
8. domains

Pandas belong to the same order as raccoons: "carnivora," which means they are also part of the same class, phylum, kingdom, and domain! But they are not part of the same species, genus, or family. I hope this helps!


Answer 3:

There are two species of panda: a red panda and a white panda. White pandas are a kind of bear, and red pandas are a kind of raccoon.

Bears and raccoons are distantly related to each-other, but the red and white pandas are no more closely related to each-other than any other bear would be with any other raccoon. I think, for example, that bears are more closely related to dogs than they are to raccoons.


Answer 4:

To answer your question about whether or not panda bears and raccoons are related, we have to define what you mean by “related”. We may consider ourselves to be “related” to our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc; but not to other people like our neighbors. However, if you consider that all humans share a common ancestor, then you could say that every human is related to every other human. If we branch further out, we could say that humans are related to chimpanzees (even though we are not the same species) because millions of years ago we shared a common ancestor. Now let’s talk about panda bears and raccoons. Panda bears have the following taxanomic classification (this is a system that classifies living organisms by several categories, starting broadly and ending in the most specific): Kingdom: animal, Phylum: chordate, Class: mammal, Order: carnivore, Family: ursidae (bear), Genus: ailuropoda, Species: melanoleuca.

Basically, this is telling you that the panda bear (scientifically called A. melanoleuca) is an animal with a spinal cord that produces milk, eats meat, and is a bear. Panda bears would be closely related to other species in the family urisidae (bear) such as black bears, brown bears, and polar bears. Now let’s look at raccoons.

Raccoons would be classified like this: Kingdom: animal, Phylum: chordate, Class: mammal, Order: carnivore, Family: procyonidae, Genus: procyon, Species: lotor.

You may notice that panda bears and raccoons have the same classification up to the “order” level, and differ in their family, genus and species. Raccoons would be closely related to other members of the procyonidae family, such as olingos and ringtails. Raccoons are more closely related to otters and weasels than pandas, and it is believed that pandas and raccoons shared their last common ancestor about 40 million years ago.

Overall, this means that panda bears and raccoons are not closely related to each other, but did share a common ancestor 40 million years ago, and are therefore related by 40 million years of evolution.

Fun Thought: raccoons and pandas are about as closely related as we are to spider monkeys!

click here to see picture of spider monkeys

Answer 5:

Excellent question! There are two kinds of pandas. The lesser (or red) panda is considered by many to be related to raccoons (family Procyonidae), but other scientists argue that it's unclear what other group of carnivores the red panda is related to. Everyone agrees, however, that the giant panda is a bear and that the two pandas are not closely related to each other (apart from both being members of the placental mammal grouping Carnivora). Sorry that the world of pandas is so confusing.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use