Scientists Say Red Pandas Are Not Actually Pandas (But they Are Still Cute)
by Camila Cruz, age 12
People may not know much about red pandas, but something many can agree on is that these animals are cute!
Actually, red pandas are not really pandas at all. In fact, they are not even closely related to pandas, however it took scientists 10 to 15 years to determine this fact. Initially, scientists assigned them to the taxonomic "infraorder" Arctoidea, which includes bears and raccoons. But research done in 2000 showed that red pandas are not closely related to bears or raccoons as had been thought, but have their own phylogenetic family.
One thing that red pandas share with giant pandas, however, is a similar habitat. The red panda’s fur is reddish-orange which is very good for camouflage to hide from predators. The color of their fur helps them vanish into the branches of fir trees because the tree is covered with reddish-brown moss.
Although red pandas are classified as carnivores, they are mostly herbivores, a characteristic that they share with giant pandas. They eat bamboo leaves and shoots, occasional fruit and flowers, but sometimes they also eat eggs and birds. Oddly, red pandas like fake sugar, but only three specific artificial sugars: sucralose, aspartame, neotame. They are the only known nonprimate species to be able to taste aspartame previously thought to be a trait exclusive to old world monkeys, apes, and humans.
[Source: Scientific American]