Giant Pandas Talk Sex Too

giant pandas national zoo dc mating calls

Discovery News reports on a new study – the first ever to look at the possible content of what pandas say to each other – and finds pandas have interesting things to say around breeding season. In an article published in Animal Behavior, researchers examined pandas’ “bleats” (one of many different types of vocalizations that pandas make and that are more common in breeding season). They found that male pandas’ bleats corresponded to their body size suggesting that these sounds can give possible female mates information about their size. Females’ bleats, on the other hand, contained information possibly related to their age as older, more experienced female breeders are apparently  better mate choices for males.

Learning this last point (about established, older female pandas with good track records of having had babies) reminded me of an interesting conversation I had recently with a colleague (a researcher at another university) who is from Nigeria. We were talking about polygamy and traditional practices of marriage in the part of Nigeria where she was raised. She described how women will sometimes, if they haven’t been able to become pregnant and bear children with one man, leave that man for another, often older man who has successfully fathered children with his existing wives. As such, her father – a repeatedly successful breeder – even married new women quite late in life (which apparently is relatively frowned upon at some point when age differences become too stark), but did so because younger women who wanted babies would see that he had been successful with his other wives and would ask to get married.

In her view, polygamy – the way it was traditionally practiced, prior to interference from the West – was quite beneficial to women, offering them significant resources, camaraderie with other women and children (which are enormously important in many African cultures). Whereas, she pointed out, it was often quite a strain on the men. Of course, I asked about love – like, what happens if you fall in love with another person after you are already married – and I remember she said that they weren’t fooled into ideas of romance and going ga-ga, and that everyone was very clear on what it meant to marry (e.g., having economic resources and bearing children), an idea I get in theory but that is so opposite to my experiences having grown up in the West with Say Anything, Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember, The Way We Were and a million love songs, fairy tales and dreams. But that’s a story for another day. For more on pandas, click on the Discovery  link below.

[Discovery]

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Image by alumroot and via Flickr Creative Commons

[Thanks, M., for the link.]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.