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Giant Panda Genome Reveals Human Toll on Species

French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet poses with a Giant Panda at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan province on November 6, 2011. Kosciusko-Morizet is on a five-day visit to China. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

The genomic history of the giant panda has been uncovered, revealing evidence of their population history and local adaptation.

The research team tracked the panda’s history back to its earliest days by looking at whole genome sequences for 34 wild giant pandas. They found that for millions of years, global changes in climate were the main driver for panda population fluctuation until recently, when human activities likely caused population divergence and serious decline. The giant panda is now the rarest bear in the world.

The hope is that the study, published in Nature Genetics, could address conservation methods not just for giant pandas but other endangered species as well.