Mei Xiang, the female panda who lives at the Smithsonian National Zoo, gave birth today. Above is a screen shot from the Zoo's Panda Cam, showing the baby shortly after birth.
Why should you care about this not-quite-yet-but-soon-to-be adorable baby animal more than you care about any other adorable baby animal? Because the scientific oddities of panda reproduction make its story very interesting.
First, it's incredibly difficult for pandas to get knocked up. They're only fertile once a year and have trouble successfully mating in captivity. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with the sperm of two different male pandas back in March. All of Mei Xiang's cubs have been conceived this way, but the artificial inseminations don't always work. She gave birth once in 2005 to Tai Shan who now lives in China. It was another 7 years before a second pregnancy took, but the unnamed cub only lived for six days.
Second, you can't tell whether or not pandas are pregnant until there either is or isn't a baby panda.
They go through the same symptoms and physical changes either way and nobody even knows exactly how long the panda gestation period is.
Plus, they're notoriously difficult to successfully ultrasound. In fact, Mei Xiang's last ultrasound on August 5 showed no sign of a fetus.
Basically, panda reproduction is weird.
So, break out the bubbly for this new, little cub with a bit more enthusiasm than might be applied to, say, a litter of rabbits.
Gastric bypass surgery is remarkably effective at promoting weight-loss (it cuts the long-term risk of early death from morbid obesity by 40%), and it’s long been presumed that the major action by which it worked was that, by bypassing the parts of the gut where most food absorbtion takes place, it limited the calories that […]
Timothy writes, “Diego Gómez is a Colombian conservation biologist. When he was a college student, he shared a single research paper online so that others could read and learn from it, just as he did. Diego was criminally prosecuted for copyright infringement, and faced up to 8 years in prison.”
Sometimes, in the course of his work, University of Florida molecular geneticist Martin Cohn must travel with unusual items like a 3D-printed mouse penis. Similarly, University of Massachusetts biologist Diane Kelly totes around anatomical models like a mold of a dolphin vagina. They’re not alone in the odd science-related items they must fly with, from […]
Boasting an IPX6 waterproof rating, the Trakk Bullet Ultra Compact Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker resists dust and heavy rainfall. It’s currently available in the Boing Boing Store.The Trakk Bullet offers the same wireless convenience as other portable speakers, but few are built as tough as this one. Its utilitarian construction is designed to be a totally low-maintenance […]
The Ticwatch 2 Active Smartwatch is a simpler take on an active wearable that raised over $2m dollars on Kickstarter and is currently offered in the Boing Boing Store.Somewhere in between the single-day battery life and platform-specificity of the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices, there exists the Ticwatch. Instead of trying to shoehorn another […]
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]