Earlier this week, the Smithsonian National Zoo live-tweeted their most recent attempt to knock up a giant panda. You can read the whole thing at Storify. And, seriously people, you should read it. I originally intended to just post a short link to this, almost as a joke, but it turns out that the process of inseminating a giant panda is actually really interesting.
Besides the photos, which are great, and the revelation that it takes 15-20 people to properly oversee the process (insert obvious jokes here), the Storify contains a lot of neat behind-the-scenes details about what it's like to perform a medical procedure on a large animal. You'll also learn a thing or two about the panda reproductive process.
Fun fact: Female pandas are only fertile for about 24-72 hours, once a year. Miss that window, and you get no baby pandas. Of course, hitting the window doesn't mean you will get baby pandas. Pregnancy doesn't just happen when you put sperm in the right place at the right time. For instance, the average female human has, on her most fertile day of the month,a 9% chance of getting pregnant. (For the record, I knew the chances were surprisingly low, but even then I was surprised to learn just how low.)
The National Zoo has inseminated Mei Xang the panda for eight years in a row. Without success.
Given that, the famously low birth rate among giant pandas starts to make more sense. Especially when you consider the fact that captive males don't seem to know, instinctively, how to have sex—and without other males around to show them, they often just don't do it at all, or fail to do it correctly.
Read the Storify of Mei Xang's insemination
Read an Animal Planet story on the complications of panda reproduction
Via Wendee Holtcamp
Image: Yes, those are tubes of frozen panda sperm. Photo courtesy the Smithsonian National Zoo Twitter account.
Ziya Tong is a veteran science reporter who spent years hosting Discovery's flagship science program, Daily Planet: it's the sort of job that gives you a very broad, interdisciplinary view of the sciences, and it shows in her debut book, The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World, […]
A new study on polar ice sheet melt warns that global sea levels could rise by almost six feet by the year 2100, an estimate twice as high as previously predicted.
Next year, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission will carry a baker’s dozen of small cubesats to space, including one that’s home to a colony of yeast cells. That cubesat, BioSentinel, will orbit the sun to help scientists understand how space radiation affects living organisms outside of Low Earth Orbit. NASA hasn’t purposely sent any lifeforms beyond […]
If you can build a cloud infrastructure, you can build a business. Companies are overwhelmingly turning to cloud computing to set up or bolster their network, and it’s easy to see why. It allows on-demand access to processing power, a la carte services, and nearly unlimited storage, all without adding extra systems and the maintenance […]
Does your gaming setup need an upgrade? No need to wait for Christmas. We’ve rounded up the latest tech accessories for your favorite video game platforms. All of them are already sale priced, but you can knock an additional 15% off the final price for Memorial Day by using the online code WEEKEND15. Audeze Mobius […]
Raspberry Pi is one of the world’s most versatile open-source computers. Alexa is a home automation hub with limitless potential. Together, they’re a dream team for ambitious makers, opening the door to everything from automatic lights to voice-controlled robots. Learning Raspberry Pi is meant to be relatively easy for newbies, but its applications with Alexa […]