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
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.
They 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 ginat 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.
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
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.
I'm a marine scientist, so I had to go look this
one up. When I first read your question, I
assumed that pandas are related to bears, but
that raccoons are not. Let's see if I'm right!
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
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. If two organisms share the same
phylum, well.... sea squirts or fish and humans
share the same phylum. Enough said.
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
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 and so
aren't very related. (Personally, I'd always
wondered if racoons were more closely related to
dogs or to cats, but I guess they really aren't
closely related to either!) The only other
animal in North America in the same family as
the raccoon is something called the
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
is: Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order
Primates, Genus Hominidae, Species sapiens.