Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (BS)
College of Science
Christopher E. Hill
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is an endangered species due to habitat destruction, human disturbance, and poaching. Captive populations of the two purported subspecies of this animal (A. f. fulgens, A. f. styani) are maintained in North America under the management of the red panda Species Survival Plan (SSP). Currently, all red panda lineages in North American zoos have been genotyped for the control region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA-CR) and 11 haplotypes identified. Only four of these haplotypes, however, have been found in captive A. f. fulgens, the subspecies from Nepal, the western end of the species' range. It was not known how well the North American population of captive red pandas represented the genetic diversity present in the wild. To determine this, samples from wild populations were obtained. In 2003, sixty-seven fecal samples were collected by a graduate student from three geographically separate locations in Nepal. A 383bp portion of the mtDNA-CR was amplified from extracted DNA using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with species-specific primers. Researchers were able to obtain PCR products from >90% of all samples. The resulting PCR products were then sequenced and compared with the known captive haplotype sequences. Seventeen distinct haplotypes were identified among the 63 successfully PCR'd sample bags. All mtDNA-CR sequences showed substantial similarity to known A. f. fulgens haplotypes with one exception that allied with the A. f. styani clade. Because captive A. f. fulgens exhibit only four haplotypes, the greater number of wild haplotypes identified in this study indicates that the remaining wild red pandas of Nepal are more genetically diverse than those held in captivity by North American zoos.
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Copenhaver, Kathryn A., "A Comparison of Mitochondrial DNA Diversity Among Wild and Captive Red Panda Populations" (2005). Honors Theses. 187.