Scientists in China discovered a fossil from a large panda that lived 22,000 years in the past. Till they excavated the fossil, reassembled it and analyzed its mitochondrial DNA, biologists had no concept this panda lineage even existed.

It's now thought of the oldest DNA from large pandas to this point, the researchers stated.

The panda fossil turned up in Cizhutuo Cave within the Guangxi area of China. No pandas stay there at this time, the researchers from the Chinese language Academy of Sciences wrote in a paper printed at this time (June 18) within the journal Present Biology. An sudden giant-panda fossil discover was thrilling, they wrote, as a result of researchers don't have a great sense of the historical past of the two,500 large pandas alive on the earth at this time. Researchers know that 20 million years in the past, the present batch of dwelling large pandas cut up from all different bears. They don't know a lot about their lineage since.

This fossil, the researchers confirmed, got here from a creature that separated from dwelling large pandas far more just lately: about 183,000 years in the past. [In Photos: The Life of a Giant Panda]

Earlier than the researchers may decide that timeline, although (and, in truth, earlier than they have been sure the fossil got here from a definite species), the researchers needed to reassemble the tiny fragments of mitochondrial DNA that remained after millenia in a subtropical cave. (Mitochondrial DNA is distinct from the DNA discovered within the nucleus of a cell however can provide comparable details about a creature's ancestry.)

To tug that off, researchers match 148,329 fragments of DNA collectively like puzzle items, utilizing a dwelling large panda's mitochondrial DNA as a information. The entire fragments got here from one particular person, and all collectively, the researchers have been ready to make use of them to parse the animal's ancestry.

The DNA additionally had dozens of mutations that will have modified how the animal developed, the researchers stated. They prompt these mutations might have been variations to outlive within the cooler local weather of the subtropics throughout the ice age 22,000 years in the past.

Initially printed on Micronis.