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Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

Physical Characteristics

Body measurements

Attribute Measurement
Weight 3.7-6.2 kg (~8-14 lb)
Length 56-62 cm (~22-24 in)
Tail Length 28-49 cm (~11-19 in)

General Appearance

  • Differences between the 2 species are minor
    • Population in China is larger overall and has a slightly bigger skull – more robust teeth. Inflated frontal sinuses.
    • Slight pelage differences (see Pelage)
  • White cheeks and muzzle with dark eye patches
  • Ears:
    • Erect, triangular-shaped – white inside with low red patch
    • Middle ear cavity is small (may have less auditory capacity)
  • Tufts of facial whiskers (vibrissae) around mouth
  • Striped bushy tail provides balance during arboreal locomotion
  • Round, relatively massive head
    • Teeth large and flattened: Unlike other carnivores, molars have elaborate crown pattern – modified for chewing bamboo.
    • Chewing muscles enlarged
    • Enlarged salivary glands (common in omnivorous carnivores)
  • Larynx is like other procyonids
  • Unique digestive system
    • Simple digestive tract lacks microbes that facilitate digestion of plant material
    • Digestive tract is relatively short (much like other carnivores) but is unusual in herbivores
    • Single-chambered stomach; most herbivores have multi-chambered stomachs
  • Fore and hind limbs are of similar length
    • Paw pads are covered with hair (adapted for walking on snow/cold ground)
    • Small glands within paw pads secrete a colorless, odorless fluid of uncertain function (Roberts & Gittleman 1984)
    • Semi-retractable sharp claws used for climbing
    • Sesamoid bone of wrist (thumb) is greatly enlarged but not as big as that of Giant panda, which has forepaws that manipulate and pull apart bamboo leaves and stalks (Roberts 1981)
  • Scent-marking anal glands secrete dark, pungent fluid
  • 8 mammary glands reduced or absent

Pelage

  • Himalayan population: Deep red coat, lightened on rump. White face mask more pronounced.
  • China population: Longer winter coat. Coat has more black. Tail stripes more distinct.

Sexual Dimorphism

  •  No sexual dimorphism in size or color

Walk Boldly

Red Panda walks on tree branch

Red pandas are excellent tree climbers.

Their sharp, semi-retractable claws help them grip branches, and their long tail helps them maintain balance.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved. Note: This is a cropped image

Page Citations

Fisher (2011)
Roberts (1981)
Roberts & Gittleman (1984)

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