By, Pam Teel
Did you know that the Mozilla Firefox logo showing the fox encircling the world is really not a picture of a fox at all but of a red panda?
Firefox is the English translation of a Chinese name for red pan- da. It actually demonstrates a rare endangered panda. Mozilla even went so far as to adopt two red panda cubs in 2010, nicknamed “Firefoxes.”
The Firefox logo was designed after these creatures so the compa- ny thought it was just right that they adopted a couple of the red pandas, and in 2010 they let viewers take a peek into the cubs lives as a thank you to their users. For a few months people got to log in to a special website to see the cubs grow. The cubs were housed in a special section equipped with web cams at the Knoxville Zoo, which has bred 98 of the animals so far. The firefoxes are actually being used to bring awareness to the plight of the creature. The site also included information for donations to the zoo and to learn more about red pandas. Red Pandas are endangered animals, and these particular cubs are the most vital captive firefoxes to the bloodline of their species.
The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black, and there are white markings on the side of the head and above its small eyes. Red pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that predomi- nantly stay in trees. Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. They use their long, bushy tails for balance and to cover themselves in winter, presumably for warmth. Primarily an herbivore, the name panda is said to come from the Nepali word ‘ponya,’ which means bamboo or plant eating animal.
Red pandas are the only living member of the Ailuridae family, and their taxonomic position has long been a subject of scientific debate. They were first described as members of the raccoon family (Pro- cyonidae)—a controversial classification—in 1825, because of eco- logical characteristics and morphological similarities of the head, dentition and ringed tail. Later, due to some agreements in DNA, they were assigned to the bear family (Ursidae).
Most recent genetic research, however, places red pandas in their own, independent family: Ailuridae. Molecular phylogenetic stud- ies show that red pandas are an ancient species in the order Carniv- ora (superfamily Musteloidea) and are probably most closely related to the group that includes weasels, raccoons and skunks.
There are two recognized subspecies of red pandas within the Ailuridae family: Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani (also known as Ailurus fulgens refulgens). The styani subspecies tends to be larger and deeper red in color than the fulgens subspecies. They have no living relatives, and their nearest fossil ancestors lived 3 million to 4 million years ago.