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Getting Ready For Mating Season – His Side

/ Post by Pandas International

In our “Her Side” post we discussed the fact that female pandas use scent marking and vocalizations to attract mates. Pandas, again, are solitary animals meaning that, in general, there are few males in the vicinity of a female panda in heat. As few as two and as many as five will typically compete for the right to breed. The largest male usually emerges the victor after some roaring and aggressive pushing.

In addition to the inherent problems of encountering a female during her short mating period, a male giant panda must go on quite a journey, traveling large distances across difficult terrain.

In a research study published in Biology of Reproduction, scientists took a closer look at male panda breeding behaviors and biology. For three years, lead author Copper Aitken-Palmer and her team evaluated the interrelated seasonal changes in male panda testosterone levels, sperm concentration, testes size, and reproductive behavior in eight male giant pandas.

The researchers found that, unlike females, reproductive fitness in male giant pandas changes over time, with physical and behavioral changes beginning three to five months before females enter estrus. “The behaviors we see change are those associated with finding females, such as increased vocalizations and scent marking,” said Aitken-Palmer.

The team also concluded that, “the males are generally very good barometers of female receptivity, and will not breed with females outside of their receptive period.”

The changes that males go through, and the timing of those changes “allow for the male to successfully mate with as many females as possible, with as little energy expenditure as necessary.”