Long-Lost Panda Relative Revealed by 22,000-Year-Old Fossil

The weathered remains from a cave in China contain the world's oldest sample of panda DNA.

In August 2014, paleoanthropologist Yingqi Zhang and his team descended into a sinkhole on the hunt for Gigantopithecus, the largest known primate to ever live. They came back out with a mix of bones from the hapless creatures that had fallen into the natural "death trap."

None of those bones belonged to the extinct ape, but the team was in for a surprise: The mix included a 22,000-year-old lower jaw from an ancient panda. And within its worn edges, the jaw held what is now the world's oldest sample of panda DNA.

With just a single fossil, it’s too soon to call the creature a new species. But the genetic evidence shows that the bone belongs to a previously unknown

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