Successful reproduction of pandas is no easy feat. Female pandas have one of the shortest breeding cycles of any mammal. Females are sexually receptive for one to three days each spring. Males must make their move during this time period or risk missing the chance to reproduce. Studying the male reproductive cycle is a promising approach to successful reproduction in captivity.
Copper Aitken-Palmer received her PhD from the University of Maryland. She has conducted a three-year study with colleagues for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. By studying the reproductive cycle of male pandas, researchers can better predict when to extract sperm for artificial semination and when to allow pandas to mate on their own. The testes of eight male giant pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding were measured and their feces were analyzed.
Aitken Palmer suggests that the best time to extract sperm is during the months of December, January and February. Due to increasing knowledge about panda mating patterns, panda experts speculate that the population is large and diverse enough to survive at least another one hundred years.
For more information, visit http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=male-panda-sex-drive
April 4, 2012
UMD Researcher Studies Panda Reproductive Behaviors
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UMD's Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, which simulates weightlessness, is one of only two such facilities in the U.S.