DNA map shows pandas may lack meat taste buds

By | December 14, 2009

DNA map shows pandas may lack meat taste buds

Genome mapping showing that pandas may prefer a bamboo-based diet because they can’t taste meat could unlock secrets to ensuring the survival of the endangered species.

The findings published in “Nature” magazine come from a study led by the Beijing Genomics Institute’s branch in Shenzhen in southern China.

The study found that pandas likely roamed the Earth as far back as 3 million years ago, with a genetic makeup that evolves slower than that of humans and other mammals.

“We hope the information gathered from mapping … our 3-year-old female panda will aid in their conservation efforts,” study co-author Wang Jun said Monday from Shenzhen.

Mutations in certain sequences of the giant panda’s taste gene, which can affect the ability to experience savory flavors such as meat and other high-protein foods, may have turned them onto a strict bamboo diet, the study said.

Further findings from the panda, named after the Beijing Olympics mascot “Jingjing,” suggested the decline in the giant panda population was not caused by inbreeding, because her DNA in various cells differed in many places.

Jingjing’s genome map showed that pandas have a similar genetic makeup to dogs and are a subspecies of Ursidae, the bear family, confirming results found in studies from late last year and earlier this year. …

via DNA map shows pandas may lack meat taste buds – Yahoo! News.

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