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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Red Panda: Wanted Dead or Alive

By Kristn Clark Fry/gfsm
February 19, 2008
JOHNSON CITY – Additional funding provided for essential laboratory and field personnel at the new East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site has already paid off with a significant one-of-a-kind find -- a nearly complete skeleton of the fossil red panda (Pristinailurus bristoli).
“It’s the find of a lifetime!” says Dr. Steven Wallace, director of the ETSU Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology which has research labs and offices in the museum.
“The public response to the opening of the Natural History Museum has been overwhelming,” says ETSU Provost Dr. Bert C. Bach. “And, ETSU is committed to supporting the museum’s needs.”
Though digging continues on the rare skeleton, already recovered material includes: the skull and jaws; both front limbs (complete with “panda’s thumb”); several neck as well as trunk vertebrae; ribs; most of the left half of the pelvis; portions of the left hind leg and foot; and three tail vertebrae.
Wallace notes that this specimen represents “the only fossil red panda skeleton ever found in the world and just the second skull.” A partial skull of Parailurus anglicus from Romania was reported by Max Schlosser in 1899. Although the new skull is heavily crushed, Wallace says 3-D reconstruction seems highly possible based on its good preservation.

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