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Humans have been fascinated by the love life of pandas for decades, and researchers will literally watch the monochromatic animals for weeks on end in hopes of seeing some fluffy foreplay.
Now, a team of researchers believes they are closer to understanding the distinct grunts, chirps and bleats that differentiate “I’m not in the mood” from “Is that a new bamboo leaf in your hair?”
From loner to lover: Pandas tend toward the solitary life, the Sias of the animal kingdom, but when the female panda is ready for some sweet, sweet loving, they let out a particular call to let potential suitors know.
The call, or bleat, as the deep, guttural vibrato is known, lets males know the female is presently open to their advances and also contains important details about the lady panda’s size and identity. Since female pandas only ovulate once a year and are capable of conceiving for just a few days, making this love connection is crucial for the survival of the vulnerable species.
Booty call: A new study from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research published in Scientific Reports illuminates more intricacies of the calls. The come-hither grunts are most effective at close range, where it’s easier to discern sex, size and identity. All of this biographical info gleaned from the call is used by the male when deciding whether it’s safe to approach the female, and if he’ll have to tangle with some panda-bros to succeed.
“If you can ID an individual that you’ve had a competitive interaction with, that’s valuable information as to whether that’s a bigger, tougher male than you are, and whether it’s worth taking that risk,” said Megan Owen, a conservation scientist at the institute and author of the study. “There are real tangible benefits to knowing who you’re dealing with when you’re out there.”
Dating pool in peril: The improved understanding of how panda’s decide to swipe right in jungle Tinder, could help researchers improve mating practices for captive and protected pandas. The animals came off the endangered species list in 2016, but a 2017 satellite study found their habitat is dramatically shrinking and becoming more fragmented, which could limit recent gains.
The pandas need your vote!