For the better of eighty years (that's more than three Panda lifespans), evolutionary biologists hotly debated the origin of China's Giant Panda--was it a bear, or a huge raccoon? Perhaps it was its own beast, unique, unrelated to anything, like a platypus, or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Careers were made in defense of each stance, tenure given or denied, alliances forged and broken, depending on what side of the great Panda Bear-Raccoon divide one stood. However, with so much in the world to distract science by the end of the 20th century (Y2K bug, ViagraŽ, dirty internet pictures, etc.), the debate barely registered as a blip on science's fanciful room-sized radar-screen tracking devices.
Yet, a young geneticist, Norman V. Solas, working on an unrelated project at the San Diego Zoo, quietly sampled the DNA from the zoo's thirteen-year-old Giant Panda, Xenu, and a newly-arrived black bear named Oscar that had been native to the Northeastern United States. They were a match. Norman Solas proved a Panda is indeed a small bear, albeit with an odd, raccoon-like jaw, rather than a freakishly large raccoon.
Unnoticed by the public, was the immediate retirement of Dr. Robert Fain, now deceased, a professor of biology at Monmouth College, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Dr. Fain's treatise of 1969, The Giant Panda is a Huge Freakin' Raccoon, is now out-of-print, and a highly-prized collectable.