A genetic test of the giant panda cub born Aug. 22 at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo shows that the cub is male and was sired by the zoo’s male panda Tian Tian, officials said. The cub’s fraternal twin, who died on Wednesday, was also male and fathered by Tian Tian.
The cubs’ paternity had been a question mark since mother Mei Xiang was inseminated in April with semen from both Tian Tian and Hui Hui, a male giant panda at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong in China.
Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics confirmed the results Friday morning. They compared DNA samples from the cubs’ cheek cells to mother Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Hui Hui.
Veterinarians collected the cheek-cell samples with a small swab during a preliminary health check on Monday.
“What we have learned will greatly add to our body of knowledge about artificial inseminations in pandas,” said Rob Fleischer, head of the center.
“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.”
The smaller cub was with Mei Xiang from about 2 p.m. Tuesday, until Wednesday morning. The zoo was swapping the twins with the mother following a twin panda protocol that has proven successful in China and at other zoos as pandas have a hard time caring for two cubs simultaneously.
During the Wednesday morning swap, veterinarians became alarmed as the panda had not gained weight, appeared weaker and showed possible respiratory problems. The zoo then began giving the cub extra feedings via bottle and tube. They witnessed some regurgitation of food during one feeding, so the cub was also started on antibiotics.
He died shortly after 2 p.m.
A necropsy of the cub showed that the most likely cause of death was complications associated with aspiration of food material into the cub’s respiratory system resulting in the development of pneumonia, the zoo said.
Watch Mei Xiang on the zoo’s live pandacam:
Story by CCTV America