Jingjing, a 3-year-old female giant panda, has gotten her genome sequenced, researchers report in Nature. The draft panda genome was generated using Illumina's Genome Analyzer and the 2.25 gigabases covers about 94 percent of the panda genome — the gaps appear to contain repeats specific to carnivores. Indeed, the researchers point out that pandas appear to have all the genes necessary for eating meat and though they also have a mutation in the umami taste gene called T1R1 though may prevent them from detecting an amino acid common in meat. Furthermore, the panda bamboo diet may reflect the traits of its gut microbiome.
"Giant pandas have long been a biological curiosity, owing in part to their strict bamboo diet and low rate of reproduction," adds this Scientific American article.
As an aside, the National Zoo's giant panda cub, Tai Shan, is scheduled to head to China in January.