The giant panda cub born at the Smithsonian National Zoo on August 22 has been announced as a male. His late sibling was also confirmed as a male.
It is not easy to determine a panda’s gender. Scientist’s at the zoo took a short fragment of the zinc finger protein gene and use this to determine the gender. This method was devised by scientists at the zoo’s Conservation Biology Institute
Determining the father of the cubs was no easy task either. Taking the genotype profiles of the cubs and potential fathers, Tian Tian and Hui Hui scientists could see which matched best. It was discovered that the father of both cubs is Tian Tian, the resident male at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Scientists used blood samples that they had on file from Mei Xiang, the cub’s mother and Tian Tian along with the semen sample from Hui Hui to determine that the cubs were fathered by Tian Tian. This was compared with a check cell swab conducted on the cub on August 24th.
Hui Hui currently resides in China and his semen was flown to Washington DC specifically to be used in the artificial insemination of Mei Xiang this year.
“What we have learned will greatly add to our body of knowledge about artificial inseminations in pandas,” said Rob Fleischer, head of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics. “Determining the pedigree relationships of a cub is a key aspect of helping to maintain a genetically diverse population. Our ability to assess the cub’s lineage will help our colleagues ensure that he finds a suitable mate.”
Since the smaller cub passed away last week it has been determined that this was a result of aspirating food which developed pneumonia.
Photo Credit: Pamela Baker-Masson, Smithsonian’s National Zoo