Traces of Red Panda
Found in Tennessee
Condensed by Native Village
It has the face of a giant panda bear and the body of
a small raccoon. This unusual, cuddly-looking animal is
the red panda. Red Pandas were believed to be native to the mountains of Nepal, Burma and China.
Now it appears the red panda might
have roamed the long-ago
forests of Tennessee.
In northeast Tennessee, paleontologists
have discovered red panda fossil bones at The Gray
Fossil site. The fossil dig pit was discovered only a
few years ago. So far a startling number of mammal
bones have been uncovered, including:
These date back more than 4,000,000
years ago in the late Miocene era.
Gray Fossil site was a former sinkhole that became a 5
acre pond. It was discovered during road
construction in 2000.
"They were all found here. I think our list right now is
over 40 different kinds of vertebrates,"
said paleontologist Steven Wallace. "For
example, we've already pulled almost two complete rhino
skeletons. Rhinos actually had a pretty long history in
North America, but they went extinct about 4½ million
years ago, so that's our minimum age for this site.
"They brought in a lot of geotechnical engineers who
noticed that not only was this unusual material, but it
was full of bones," said Wallace.
But it's the red panda that's getting all the attention.
A fossilized red panda tooth was discovered
"Since that time, we found a complete lower jaw of the
panda, and over the past two years, we've been
recovering an entire skeleton that has a full skull,"
Now the big news is a second red panda unearthing.
"We found another skull," Wallace said. "It's clear
that the animal was actually abundant here at our fossil
site, and so now we're discovering multiple
At 37, Wallace has many years of fossil discoveries
ahead -- only 1% of the site has been excavated.
"Yeah, I like to tell people that I'll retire long
before we're finished out here. The site is so big, I
figure I'll dig for the next few decades, and when I
retire, they'll still be digging here.
Loren Coleman from the
International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine visited the Gray Fossil Site.
She learned about the red panda find.
think it's groundbreaking because a lot of these animals
are known from one area of the world," she said." If all of
a sudden they're found in North America, it gives ... hope that many of these
species that we project as mostly Asian actually have a
connection between the continents. One thing that I
think people often forget is that, in cryptozoology,
while a lot of people think there may be brand-new
species, cryptozoologists are realistic to know that
some of these may be relic survivors."
There is a huge list of discovered animals, "but the list of animals that we could find is
just as big, and then, there's always the surprises -- I
mean, I did not expect to find a panda or a Eurasian
badger here," Wallace said. "Who knows how many other surprises we'll
get out here."
red panda in North America makes us aware that if
they've only uncovered 1 percent of the animals at the
site, what are they going to find when they keep
digging? It's quite exciting -- they could have a whole
range of new animals there."
Village Home Page
Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:
NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth,
educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich,
diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer
readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and
Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.
Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Native Village is responsible for format changes.
also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance
the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles.
Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article.
Our hopes are to make the news as
informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning
circles to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update:
NativeVillage500@aol.com. We are
always glad to make new friends!