Date of Award

Spring 4-3-2017

Document Type

Distinction Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Anna Young

First Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Bouchard

Second Committee Member

Dr. Jeffrey Lehman


Giant Panda, Kin Recognition, Phenotypic Matching, Prior Association

Subject Categories

Animal Sciences | Animal Studies | Other Psychology | Zoology


Although giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are known to be solitary in the wild, cubs engage in frequent bouts of affiliative behavior in captive settings. The goal of the project was to investigate whether kinship or familiarity based on housing influenced the frequency of social interactions within one-year old giant panda cubs. Data were collected from June through mid-July 2016 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sichuan, China. Over 113 hours of behavioral observations were recorded on four sets of twins and one singleton, focusing specifically on affiliative behaviors. Time housed together was a significant predictor of the amount of time cubs engaged in social interactions together (F (2,33) =6.41, ρ=0.0044, and R2=0.28). Additionally, the longer cubs were housed together the more likely they were to eat together (F (2,33) =4.67, ρ=0.0016, and R2=0.22). Kinship affected play: cubs were more likely to play with siblings regardless how often they were housed with one another (F (2,33) =6.83, ρ=0.0033, and R2=0.29). This suggests that giant panda cub social engagement is based on some means of kin recognition, whether it is prior association, phenotypic matching, or a mechanism not examined within this study, such as personality. Further long term assessment needs to be conducted exploring the behavioral impacts of socially housing giant panda cubs and kinship recognition in this species.