Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Uncertainty in science: is the giant panda a bear or a raccoon?

The few remaining doubts that the giant panda is a bear depend on the belief that it ought to be closely related to the lesser panda, and on controversial interpretations of molecular sequence differences.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Barber, H. Science 134, 596–602 (1961).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. David, A. Nouv. Archs Mus. Hist. nat., Paris 5, 12–18 (1869).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Milne-Edwards, A. A. Sci. nat. Zool. Ser. 5 art 10, 1. C.R. Hebd. Seanc. Acad. Sci. Paris 70, 341–342.

  4. Davis, D. D. Fieldiana, Zool. Mem. 3 (Chicago Nat. Hist. Museum, 1964).

  5. Gould, S. J. Discover 7, 40–48 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Mayr, E. Suppl. Vol. Dict. Sci. Bio. (Scribner, New York, in the press).

  7. Thenius, E. Z. Säugetierk, 44, 286–305 (1979).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Chorn, J. & Hoffmann, R. S. Ailuropoda melanoleuca in Mammalian Species, No 110 (Amer. Soc. Mammalogists, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Starck, D. in Vergleichende Anatomic der Wirbeltiere, p. 217 (Springer, Berlin, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Honacki, J. H., Kinman, K. E. & Koeppl, J. W. in Mammal Species of the World (Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Anderson, S. & Jones, J. K. Jr. in Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World (Wiley, New York, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Morris, D. & Morris, R. Men and Pandas (Hutchinson, New York, 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Ewer, R. F. The Carnivora p. 393 (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1973).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Eisenberg, J. F. The Mammalian Radiations (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Schaller, G. B. The Giant Pandas of Wolong (University of Chicago Press, 1985).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Gould, S. J. The Panda's Thumb (W. W. Norton, New York, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Mayr, E. in Evolution and the Diversity of Life, 694–711 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  18. O'Brien, S. J. et al. Nature 317, 140–144 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Collier, G. E. & O'Brien, S. J. Evolution 39, 473–487 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Leon, C. A. & Wiens, A. L. J. Mammal. 37, 11–23 (1956).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Sarich, V. M. Nature 245, 218–220 (1973).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Sarich, V. M. Trans. Zool. Soc. London 33, 165–171 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hendey, Q. B. A. S. Afr. Museum 81, 1–109 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Van Valen, L. M. Nature 317, 428 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Sibley, C. G. & Ahlquist, J. Curr. Orn. 1, 245–292 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Tagle, D. A., Miyamoto, M. M., Goodman, M., Hofmann, O., Braunitzer, G., Goeltenboth, R. & Jalanke, H. Naturwissenschaften 73, 511–514 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hiebl, I., Schneeganss, D. & Braunitzer, G. Biol. Chem. Hoppe-Seyler 367, 591–599 (1986).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mayr, E. Uncertainty in science: is the giant panda a bear or a raccoon?. Nature 323, 769–771 (1986).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing