Panda ‘love’ may be the key ingredient when it comes to producing offspring, since pandas have a preference for their partners before they mate, a new study suggests.
In the study – published December 15 in the journal Nature Communications – the researchers at the Bifengxia Chinese Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan, China, let the bears observe a pair of opposite-sex pandas, and then choose the one they wanted to mate with. The pandas released scents and made chirping noises to show their romantic interest.
When the pandas were not interested in one another, the rates of successful mating were about zero percent, compared with 75 percent when there was mutual attraction, the researchers found.
When female pandas chose their mating partner, the mating act was completed about 70 percent of the time, compared with 30 percent when the females were not interested in the male. When they mated with a preferred male, the females gave birth to one cub approximately 90 percent of the time, compared with 40 percent of the time when it was a non-preferred male. All the females who mated with a preferred partner cared for the offspring, but the number decreased to 80 percent when the fathers of the cubs were non-preferred males.
Similarly, male pandas also had their preferences. Meghan Martin-Wintle of PDXWildlife in Portland and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, said that male pandas typically invest a lot of time in pursuing a romantic partner.
When male pandas mated with a preferred female the mating act was successful more than 70 percent of the time, compared with only 30 percent of the time when they mated with a non-preferred female. Cubs resulted about 80 percent of the time when there was a mutual attraction between male and female pandas, but the number dropped to 60 percent when the female was unappealing to the males. Maternal care dropped from 90 percent to less than 70 percent, when the male fathered a cub with a non-preferred female.
Mutual attraction can surely improve reproduction among panda bears. That being said, conservation breeders also have to ensure genetic variability, which is essential especially in endangered species, such as pandas.
Image Source: tokyotimes