Since its discovery in the early 1800’s, the taxonomic classification of the red panda has been a subject of almost as much debate as the placement of the giant panda.
The higher taxonomic affinity of Ailurus has been a subject of almost as much debate as the taxonomic placement of the giant panda. Since its discovery in the early 1800’s, Ailurus has, at various times, been placed in the Procyonidae, the Ursidae, with Ailuropoda in Ailuropodidae, and in the monotypic family Ailuridae. This uncertainty has arisen because of difficulties in determining whether certain characteristics of Ailurus are phylogenetically conservative or are derived and convergent with species of similar ecological habits.
Evidence based on the fossil record, serology, karyology, behavior, anatomy, and reproduction reflect closer affinities with Procyonidae than Ursidae. However, ecological and foraging specializations and distribution distinct from the modern procyonid radiation warrant classification in a separate family (Ailuridae) derivative of the Procyonidae.
Most behaviors of the red panda are typically carnivore-like and offer few clues to the taxonomic placement of the species. Certain categories of behaviors, especially scent-marking, some vocalizations, body postures, foraging, and feeding behavior reveal similarities between the red panda and giant panda.
Sources: (Chorn & Hoffman, 1978; Eisenberg, 1981; Gregory, 1936; Hollister, 1915; Honacki, Kinman, & Koeppl, 1982; Kleiman, 1983; Mivart, 1882; Pocock, 1941; Roberts, 1981; Roberts & Gittleman, 1984; Sarich, 1976)
Image: Mathias Appel