October 14, 2008 1:16:01 am
Scientists in China have mapped the genome of the giant panda, which could yield a better understanding of why the endangered animals are so famously sex-shy, state media said on Monday.
“We hope the genome map could help genetically explain why giant pandas have little reproductive capability so that scientists can help them deliver more cubs,” Wang Jun, a scientist with the Beijing Genomics Institute, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.
Chinese experts say there are only about 1,600 wild pandas in China, mainly in the southwest, with another 200 or so raised in captivity in Chinese breeding centres.
The animals’ notoriously low libidos have frustrated efforts to boost their
Breeders have resorted to tactics such as showing them “panda porn” videos of other pandas mating, and putting males through “sexercises” aimed at training up their pelvic and leg muscles for the rigours of copulation.
The Chinese-led genome-mapping effort also involved scientists from Britain, the United States, Denmark and Canada, the China Daily said.
The scientists mapped the genome of a three-year-old female named Jing Jing, with the results confirming the widely-held belief that the panda is a subspecies of bear, it said.
The panda had been previously thought to be related more closely to raccoons and similar animals.
A more detailed genome map could be completed by the end of this year, it said.