Pandas always had an interesting tory an one in which I was forced to sit through boring lectures about the man who commited the big error of assigning Pandas to the family that includes raccoons and coati mundis and Pandas, They were stuck together because they looked alike. And, like other animals that have parallel adaptive morphologies, it was all fucked up.
The Chinese straightened it out in the last 15 years when they harvested DNA and compared it to all the DNA available (including the short faced bear). The split off of the short faced fambly an the true Ursus was late Pliocene and short faced bears are primarily a beast of N and S America (the giant panda was supposedly evolved through a "bottleneck" that responded to the large expanses of bamboo covered mountains that were much mire widespread in china in the early Pleistocene. The big argument now is whether the Giant panda is an evolutionary cul de sac. because its finely honed adaptive boundaries (mountainous, bamboo forest with seasonal temperature s). These conditions are quickly being winnowed away by humans. China has taken some drastic steps to stop their decline (its like a National SYmbol and people really care for the things).
So the giant panda an the short faced bear descended from a "smaller panda-like individual) that showed (apparently) severl pqths of genetic variation so that the red panda, the pnda, the giant panda, sun bear, short faced bear all owe their gret grandparent linkage to a small raccoon faced bear. (It was not anywhere related to a Procyon family member it was an Ursidae.
Our own bears were not anywhere related to short faced bears . They were more related to the European CAVE BEAR which was even bigger but, like the Panda, was a veggiemegafauna. The Mouterian Culture probably developed as a outgrowth of basing most of their necessities oin the cave bear. The cave bear was only firt described in the post WWI time when farmers were mining bat **** from caves for use as fertilizers since the big fertlizer plants were either burnt or converted to explosives manufcture. The dicovery of cave beqr fossils indicated that these guys died out around the same time as Neanderthals. (Why) its been speculated that , while they were being harvested by Neanderthals" , the climate change got decidedly colder and their major foodstuffs _grasses and low foliage) only grew for a few months so the beqrs spent a large part of the year hibernating and their teeth kept growing and this caused major dental hygiene problems (I am not making this up). Some of the cave beqrs extended their ranges north and over the ice and around Beringea.
The vegetarian bers again reoccupied their former carnivore status and evolved several lines of Ursus.
I only know this crap because of former seminars on paleogenetics at U Penn. (The Short Faced Bear, it turned out was first named in the 1800's by Joseph Leidy who wqs a pqleontologist at U Penn-so, in his memory Penn had some lectures and programs during the Darwin Birthday year in which their paleogenetics and geo and paleo programs did some interdisciplenary presentations on these very bears an the evolution of whole bunches of them.
Will the Giant Panda Die out??
I wouldnt bet against the eventuality