PANDAS IN ANCIENT GRAY
These pandas were good climbers! Their fossil remains show that their hands and feet were flexible with sharp claws, and they had long tails to help keep their balance. They spent lots of time in trees, where they could find shelter from predators on the ground, but they looked for food both on the ground and in the branches. At the ancient habitat of the Gray Fossil Site, there were many trees for these pandas to climb, including oak, hickory, and pine trees.
Paleontologists can learn about ancient animal diets from the shape of their teeth. Gray Fossil Site pandas have teeth that are great for eating plants and animals. With their sharp teeth and claws, these pandas could eat the smaller animals of ancient Gray, such as mice, rabbits, birds, and salamanders. When they were in the mood for salad, there were many kinds of plants to choose from! Living near the ancient pond meant that they could easily find water to drink.
Life can be dangerous for a small mammal like a panda. At the Gray Fossil Site, paleontologists have found fossil remains of saber-toothed cats, alligators, and birds of prey, all of which might have eaten pandas. Hiding in the branches would have been a good defense for the pandas to protect themselves and their young.
Bristol’s Appalachian pandas are related to modern-day red pandas, which live in forests of southern Asia. Modern-day red pandas are smaller and more herbivorous than their extinct Gray Fossil Site cousins.
Today, red pandas are considered Endangered. Their habitat has shrunk due to human activities such as logging, mining, farming, and building cities. Scientists are trying to preserve this species by raising and studying them at special facilities, including two places not far from the Gray Fossil Site: the Knoxville Zoo in Knoxville, Tennessee and the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
This video provides an overview of our scientists' understanding of the extinct red pandas at the Gray Fossil Site.
Print or download the habitat worksheet below and use the text and video information on this page to answer all of the questions about your group's animal's habitat requirements. You will share this information with your class to try to reconstruct the habitat at the Gray Fossil Site when these animals lived there.