Red pandas, the bushy-tailed and russet-furred bamboo-munchers that dwell in Asian high forests, are not a single species, according to the most comprehensive genetic study to date on these endangered mammals.

Scientists said on Wednesday they had found substantial divergences between the two species — Chinese red pandas and Himalayan red pandas — in three genetic markers in an analysis of DNA from 65 of the animals.

The recognition of the existence of two species could help guide conservation efforts for a mammal adored by many people even as its numbers dwindle in the wild.