SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Scientists have sequenced the genome of the giant panda, an achievement which may aid efforts to protect the endangered species, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
By understanding the genetic make-up of giant pandas, researchers may be able to explain their low birth rate and help them to have more cubs, Wang Jun, a scientist at the Beijing Genomics Institute, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
"By sequencing the giant panda genome we've laid the genetic and biological foundation for us to gain a deeper understanding of the peculiar species," said Wang, whose institute played a major role in the International Giant Panda Genome Project.
Launched in March this year, the project discovered evidence to support the theory that giant pandas might be a subspecies of black bear, Xinhua said.
Wang said knowledge of the genome could also help efforts to control disease among pandas. Scientists believe fewer than 2,000 giant pandas may now live in the wild in China.
Reporting by Andrew Torchia