Red pandas are actually two distinct species.

Bizarre on Female First

Bizarre on Female First

The bushy-tailed endangered animals - which are found in Asian high forests and feed on bamboo - are not a single species, according to a comprehensive genetic study.

Scientists have spotted substantial divergences between two species - Himalayan red pandas and Chinese red pandas - in three genetic markers after an analysis of DNA from 65 of the mammals.

The study - which was published in the Science Advances journal - was led by Chinese Academy of Sciences conservation biologist Yibo Hu and colleague Fuwen Wei.

Yibo Hu said: ''To conserve the genetic uniqueness of the two species, we should avoid their interbreeding in captivity.

''Interbreeding between species may harm the genetic adaptations already established for their local habitat environment.''