, Volume 95, Issue 11, pp 1079–1083 | Cite as

Virtual cranial endocast of the oldest giant panda (Ailuropoda microta) reveals great similarity to that of its extant relative

  • Wei Dong
Short Communication


Recent development of computed tomography and three-dimensional visualization techniques has enabled the non-destructive inspection of the endocast morphology of fossil neurocranium, the basic material for paleoneurological study. A virtual cranial endocast was reconstructed based on the first skull of the oldest giant panda, Ailuropoda microta, discovered recently and dated at more than 2 Myr (million years) ago. It was compared with that of the extant giant panda (A. melanoleuca) and that of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), as well as CT slices of the late Pleistocene A. baconi. The overall endocast morphology of A. microta is more similar to that of A. baconi and A. melanoleuca than to that of U. maritimus. The absolute endocast size is the smallest in A. microta, largest in A. baconi, and intermediate in A. melanoleuca. However, the proportion of cerebral volume to total endocast size is very close to each other between the oldest and extant giant panda, as well as the sulcal length per unit area of cerebral endocast surface.


Giant panda Paleoneurology Evolution Computed tomography Plio–Pleistocene 



The author would like to thank Drs. Jin and Liu for providing the skull of A. microta, Dr. Zhu for scanning the skulls, and Prof. D. Kruska for providing some useful reprints. The author would also like to acknowledge three referees for critiques and suggestions to improve the manuscript. The present work was supported by the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation (Project No. 40772014) and Knowledge Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. KZCX2-YW-106).

Supplementary material

114_2008_419_Fig1_ESM.jpg (135 kb)

Anterior and posterior views of cranial endocast of A. microta (JPG 134 kb)

114_2008_419_Fig2_ESM.jpg (176 kb)

Dorsal and ventral views of cranial endocast of A. microta (JPG 176 kb)

114_2008_419_Fig3_ESM.jpg (145 kb)

Right and left lateral views of cranial endocast of A. microta (JPG 144 kb)

114_2008_419_MOESM1_ESM.wmv (1.9 mb)
S4 Movie showing horizontal and transversal rotation of cranial endocast of A. microta (WMV 1.85 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.National Laboratory of Pattern Recognition, Institute of AutomationChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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