Panda’s DNA Mapped

Called one of the living fossils, the China’s giant panda’s entire genome has been mapped out. A study conducted by an international consortium led by scientists in China laid out the 2.4 billion DNA base pairs of a 3-year-old panda named Jing Jing, which was the mascot of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.Compared to the 3 billion base pairs humans have, the black and white panda’s DNA is smaller, but it contains an estimated 21,000 genes that encode proteins, a number similar to that of humans.The genetic make-up of the panda helps scientists to study the bear’s genetic history, behavior, and its finicky diets. It turns out that pandas have mutations in two copies of a taste gene called T1R1, which encodes a protein that senses the savory taste of meats, cheeses, broths and other high-protein foods. These mutations may have robbed pandas of the ability to taste meat, pushing them toward their bamboo diet, the researchers suggest.A surprise to the scientists, the panda genome does not show signs of inbreeding, inconsistent with one theory that suggests that the decline of the panda population may be caused by inbreeding. Jing Jin is an offspring of parents from two regions of wild pandas in China, which also may explain why his genome shows a diversity of genetic heritages.  

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