Panda bear's oldest known ancestor was Spanish, not Chinese

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The oldest known ancestor of the giant panda lived in Spain, paleontologists say, after two fossil sets of jaws and teeth of a species in the panda lineage scientists are calling the Kretzoiarctos beatrix were found in northeast Spain.

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The fossils, described in the journal PLOS ONE, are from two adult animals and are 11.5 million to 12.5 million years old, according to lead study author Juan Abella, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Spain. The oldest giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) fossils found in China are significantly younger, an 8.2 million years old.

The genus is called Kretzoiarctos, which means "bears of Kretzoi" and was named after a paleontologist who had discovered other extinct panda species, Miklos Kretzoi. The species is named "beatrix," after colleague of the researchers, Beatriz Azanza. Kretzoiarctos beatrix weighed at most 160 pounds.

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