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Are pandas related to bears and are raccoons?
Question Date: 2003-05-06
Answer 1:

There was some confusion about this for a while. Scientists put living things in groups to help us organize what we know about the millions of species on Earth. Not everything fits neatly into the groups scientists have created.

Pandas are in the animal kingdom, along with all of the other living things that get their energy from eating and are made of more than one cell. Worms, insects, and sponges are animals too. They are vertebrates, along with all the animals that have a skull and a backbone. Fish and frogs are vertebrates too. Some vertebrates are mammals (members of the class Mammalia) because they have hair and their mothers give milk. Mice and deer are mammals. They are in the order Carnivora because they have a certain set of teeth and because they are closely related to other carnivores. Cats and otters are carnivores too.

You probably know that raccoons and bears are actually not carnivorous. Most are omnivorous and eat both plants and animals. Pandas, as you probably know, are strict vegetarians.

To answer your question, for a long time people have disagreed about whether giant pandas and red pandas were bears or raccoons. Until some new technology came along, they mostly had to look at bones and teeth. Scientists have used DNA to find out that the giant panda is more closely related to the other bears than to the raccoons. Giant pandas are in the family Ursidae with the seven other bear species. Raccoons are in the family Procyonidae along with ring-tails and coatis.

The bear family and raccoon family are closely related. Red pandas (often called lesser pandas) are now put in the raccoon family. Scientists will have to keep working to find new information to figure out if that is where they belong. That is how science works. We keep trying to get more information and keep our minds open for new answers.

Answer 2:

I guess it depends on what you mean by "related", but I took your question to mean "Are these three animals in the same family?" Biologists classify animals according to how closely they are related to each other with a system that goes like this (from general to specific): Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.. If two organisms are in the same species, they are about as closely related as two individuals can get without sharing relatives.

Animals start to get pretty closely related at the level of family. Pandas, bears and raccoons are all mammals and they all share the same order (Carnivora), so they are all related to each other to some extent. The classification that they share is: Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora. From there, bears are split into the Family Ursidae and raccoons into the Family Procyonidae. OK, so where do pandas fit in? Pandas are in the Family Ursidae, and are considered true bears. There seems to be some misinformation floating around the web that pandas are more closely related to raccoons than bears. Although scientists first thought this was the case, it is not considered true anymore.

Although they share the same order, bears and raccoons do not share the same family. The only other animal in North America in the same family as the raccoon is something called the coatimundi. By the way, do you know what the classification system is for humans? Most people don't even know their own phylum! Humans are mammals, so we are in the same class as pandas, bears and raccoons. From this, you can tell that sharing the same class doesn't mean a whole lot in terms of relatedness. Our full classification for humans is: Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Primates, Genus Hominidae, Species sapiens.

Answer 3:

The giant panda (species Ailuropoda melanoleuca, the large black and white animal that most people think of and is found in zoos) is part of the bear family. site to learn more

There is a lesser known "panda" (species Ailurus fulgens or red panda) that is part of the super-family Musteloidea, along with the weasel, raccoon and skunk families.

Read more on this site from Wikipedia

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