On November 1, 2009, a panda cub called Qi Zai was found in Shaanxi Province, China. Its body shape and behavior are the same as the usual black and white panda, the only difference is that it’s in brown.
Brown pandas is a relatively rare variant of pandas. As of 2009, only five brown pandas had been found, and they are all found in Qinling, Shaanxi.
Why would there be brown pandas? Experts have come up with the following four assumptions:
According to the first assumption, it is suggested that its appearance may be due to the abnormal content of trace elements, affecting the hair pigment synthesis in the soil and water sources of the Qinling areas, leading to the synthesis of melanin in the pandas’ hair.
However, if such is the case, pandas found in this area are supposed to be appearing in all sorts of colors which range from black to brown, instead of merely brown. Nonetheless, such types have not yet been found so far.
The second assumption is that the formation of brown hair is caused by genetic mutations, but the probability of factors affecting pandas’ coat color, due to genetic mutations in nature, remains relatively low.
The third assumption suggests that the brown coat is an original trait. That is, such a color represents how the ancestors of pandas were like.
The fourth assumption suggests that such a color is the result of the combination of recessive genes.
Assuming that the color of hair is controlled by a pair of genes, the gene determining the coat as brown is a recessive one. Only when the parents of the brown panda have carried such genes at the same time, their descendants may appear to be homozygous for the recessive genes, thereby growing brown hair.
Although the fourth assumption seems to be relatively complete, people still possess limited information to it. Further researches are necessary to unveil the real cause of brown pandas.