Giant Pandas – A Failure of Evolution?

05 Dec

BBC – Earth News – Giant panda breeding breakthrough in China.

When I was a kid, pandas were those adorable creatures that happened to be the logo for the WWF.  We all knew they were endangered and it had to do with the destruction of their habitat, specifically the bamboo forests.

As I grew up and managed to take a variety of science courses, including several on evolution and genetics, a clearer picture on the status of pandas began to emerge.

The BBC article details the difficulties pandas have in reproducing.  When you read through the article, you can’t help but laugh at the numerous hurdles pandas have in breeding. While you can’t deny the cuteness of these animals, it just seems like evolution hasn’t been kind to these animals. Highlights from the article include:

  • Pandas can conceive during a single 24-hour period in an entire year.
  • Pandas require a very exact position for mating.
  • Sex Ed and Viagra were unsuccessful and caused pandas to become violent.
  • Pandas can’t store fat (despite their cuddly physique) and can only nurse one baby at a time.

Clearly scientists and conservation groups have invested a significant amount of time and money for saving the pandas.  But you can’t help but wonder if this is a worthy cause to invest in.  Without loss of habitat and poaching, it is possible the Giant Pandas could continue to sustain their wild population.  Darwin founded the principle of natural selection and “survival of the fittest.”

In today’s day and age, there are thousands of causes that require our attention. I can’t help but wonder if they deserve this much attention. But you have to admit, they are cute!

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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Commentary


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