What are the Giant Panda’s Ancestors? (Mystery Solved!)

The giant pandas have been around for a long time now before they even started going into extinction. 

Just like me, you might be wondering, where do they come from?

I found something that might interest you!

Giant pandas originated from Ailuropoda microta. They are also known as the Pygmy giant pandas. So far, they are the earliest known ancestor of the giant pandas. 

Since you now know what the giant panda’s ancestors are, you might be curious to know more about them.

Let’s read down below!

About the Ailuropoda Microta (Pygmy Panda)

The Size

Under scientific classification, the Ailuropoda microta is from the kingdom Animalia. It is measured to be 3ft (1m) in length. 

This is different from the modern-day giant panda. The giant panda currently is about 5 ft (1.2-1.9m).

Looking at the difference in length, it is obvious that the modern-day giant panda went through some evolution. After a close study, it was found that Ailuropoda microta wore patterns on their teeth.

This is an indication that they ate and lived on bamboo. This bamboo diet is quite similar to that of the modern-day giant panda. 

The Skull

In south China, a skull belonging to Ailuropoda microta was found in a limestone cage. The skull happened to have existed more than 5 billion years ago.

Now, this alone tells how long the giant panda’s ancestors have long existed. After a close look at Ailuropoda microta’s skull, the difference was clear. 

Although it must have evolved, the modern giant panda’s skull was quite different. Ailuropoda microta skull is 2 times larger than that of giant pandas.

In addition, the two skulls were not anatomically similar either. This difference is an indication that the giant pandas have evolved from their ancestors for millions of years. 

And this has led to the giant pandas existing as a completely different lineage from their ancestors.

Where Did the Ailuropoda Microta Live?

Sometime in 2005, a fossilized skull of Ailuropoda microta was seen in a karst cave somewhere in China. During its lifetime, it existed in lowland tropical bamboo forests in the southern part of China.

The Ailuropoda Microta’s Ancestors (Primal Pandas)

Now, you might also be wondering, did the Ailuropoda microta fall from the sky? No, they didn’t! They had their ancestors.

The pygmy panda bear originated from Ailuropoda lufengensis (primal panda). 

The evolution from the primal panda to Ailuropoda microta took place about 2 million years ago. 

In appearance, the pygmy giant panda bear looks so much like the fat pony. However, it is nothing compared to the modern-day giant panda. 

The giant panda is twice the length of the pygmy panda as they were 3 feet. 

When it comes to the dental structure, the pygmy was found to have been bamboo eaters as well. 


Pandas are most related to bears.  If you judge the physical appearance of the two animals, they look similar to each other. The bear looks like a giant panda in shape and even in height. 

Also, the two species share the same walking step and shaggy furs at the side of their mouth. They also love to climb trees just like the giant pandas. 

Scientists have taken it up to find out whether the giant pandas are related to the bears more than the raccoons. 

A DNA test conducted resulted in the final verdict that giant pandas are related to bears and not raccoons. 

Interestingly, the giant pandas originate from the family Ursidae. Even though they are from a different genus, they share the same family with bears: the family Ursidae. 

Giant pandas are particularly related to the spectacled bears from South Africa. 

Although the giant panda and the red panda appear to be similar, that’s not exactly true. The red panda, also known as Ailuropoda, is more related to the raccoons. 


Do Humans and Pandas Have a Common Ancestor?

No, humans and giant pandas do not have a common ancestor. If anything, they are far from being related. Think about this – The giant pandas look nothing like humans!

Here’s the point –

Generally, most mammals walk on four legs. Mammals like cats, dogs, elephants, and even giant pandas. 

Humans are different from how regular mammals sit and walk. We like to hold our spines and backs in a vertical position and at a right angle to the ground. 

To this effect, Scot Wiliams from New York University and Gabrielle Russo from Stony Brook University carried out the research. 

This was to compare humans and other species that might have similar upright standing postures. Instead of using the apes or chimpanzees which were related to humans, they chose the giant pandas. 

However, after thorough research, results showed there were no similarities between humans and giant pandas. 

When Were Giant Pandas Discovered?

Giant Pandas - Bamboo-Eating Bears

The giant pandas were discovered in 1869 by Armand David. 

Long before now, the world barely knew the word “panda” neither had they seen it before. The famous giant panda was not always as famous as you have always thought. 

The giant pandas were discovered by westerners in ancient Chinese.  The French missionary Armand David in China first saw the fluffy creatures in 1869. 

They were so intrigued by the giant pandas that they purchased a dead specimen from the hunters. 

This saw the discovery of giant pandas in the global world. Now, more than 20 pandas found outside china boast of housing giant pandas. 

Final Thoughts

The giant panda’s ancestors are Ailuropoda microta. They are considered the earliest ancestors of the giant pandas. 

Ailuropoda microta is quite different from the modern-day giant panda. In length, Ailuropoda microta is 3 feet long while giant pandas are 5 feet long. 

In addition, Ailuropoda microta has a skull twice the size of giant pandas. Interestingly, when two skulls were not anatomically similar in any way.

Further study on Ailuropoda suggests that the Ailuropoda microta lived on bamboo just like the modern-day giant panda.

If you want to learn more about the giant panda’s origin, CLICK HERE.