Two subfossil partial skeletons of male giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) were recovered, along with remains of 16 other mammalian species, from a natural sinkhole on Jiangdong Mountain (south-western Yunnan, China). The panda and other mammalian bones from the sinkhole's upper chamber yielded tightly clustered accelerator mass spectrometry corrected radiocarbon ages of 8470-8250 yr BP, and the panda remains from the lower chamber were found to be 5025 ± 35 yr BP. The bones represent a natural accumulation of mostly large mammals (&30 kg), which had fallen accidentally into the sinkhole. The Jiangdong Mountain mammal assemblage comprises mostly obligate forest-dwellers such as the giant panda, Asian elephant and Sumatran rhinoceros, but the presence of the horse and gaur suggests a more open woodland habitat. Giant pandas were distributed widely in southern China during the Pleistocene, but are now restricted to dense stands of bamboo within temperate forests surrounding the Sichuan Basin. The evidence from Jiangdong Mountain indicates that suitable habitat for pandas extended west of the Salween River through the mid-Holocene. Rapid deforestation of the area in historical times is suggested by an accumulation of cave fill below the opening of the sinkhole containing pieces of an early to middle Ming Dynasty bowl.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)