The new baby panda at the National Zoo—the alive one, not the one that was born dead—is a girl panda, the zoo announced this morning. And genetic testing reveals that she is the offspring of the National Zoo's own resident male panda, Tian Tian.
The paternity had been in doubt because of Tian Tian's widely reported sexual incompetence. The 16-year-old panda has been chronically unable to copulate with his designated partner at the National Zoo, Mei Xiang; the New Yorker this month described his performance, when presented with a willing Mei Xiang, as "like a man who has just opened a large box from Ikea and has no idea what to do next."
So Tian Tian's sperm was extracted through electrical stimulation and used to artificially inseminate Mei Xiang, as the zoo had done to produce their previous offspring, Tai Shan. But the zoo additionally and humiliatingly included a dose of semen supplied by Gao Gao, the sexually talented and reproductively prolific male panda who lives at the San Diego Zoo.
Gao Gao's conventional masculine vigor apparently gave him no advantage in the technologically mediated breeding process, however. As the giant panda diverges into two species—a few ragged sexual traditionalists roaming what's left of the Chinese wilderness, and a network of adorable bamboo-powered cyborg-clones driving zoo revenues and merchandise sales around the world—the genes from the bumbling Tian Tian may yet prove superior for the new era.
[Photo via Getty]