Leukocyte Characteristics of the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca): Morphologic, Cytochemical and Ultrastructural Features
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2019
Spencer Kehoe1, DVM; Nicole I. Stacy2, DVM, DrMedVet, DACVP; Salvatore Frasca Jr2, VMD, PhD, DACVP; Tracy Stokol3, BVSc, PhD, DACVP; Chengdong Wang4, MS; Sharon T. Debose1, BS, MSEd, RVT; Kate Leach1, BVSc; Li Luo4, MS; Sam Rivera1, DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian Practice), DACZM, DECZM (Zoo Health Management)
1Department of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA; 2Department of Comparative, Diagnostic, and Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 3Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA; 4Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Northern Suburb Chengdu, Sichuan, P.R. China


The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a vulnerable species and a charismatic, prominent member of zoological collections worldwide. Despite its importance, few studies have been conducted to determine the hematologic reference of this species,1,2 and no studies to date have been performed to describe normal cell morphology or constituents, achieved by traditional techniques such as cytochemical staining and evaluation of ultrastructural features3-5. The objective of this study was to characterize giant panda leukocytes using a routine modified Wright’s stain, eight cytochemical stains, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to further the understanding of accurate cell identification and cytoplasmic contents. Voluntary venipuncture was performed on four healthy individual animals (two adults and two juveniles). Blood was collected from the cephalic vein into calcium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (Ca2+ EDTA) for routine and cytochemical stains, and into 2.5% glutaraldehyde preservative for TEM. On routinely stained blood smears, leukocytes could be differentiated into granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils) and mononuclear cells (lymphocytes and monocytes). Cytochemical staining revealed similar leukocyte staining patterns to that seen in other mammals, with some species differences. On TEM, leukocytes with nuclear and cytoplasmic features of mononuclear cells (e.g., lymphocytes and monocytes) were differentiated from granulocytes, which had a lobulated nucleus and cytoplasmic granules of different electron densities. This study provides novel information on giant panda morphology and cellular constituents and will be clinically applicable for the establishment of hematologic reference intervals, as well as provide a baseline for understanding leukocyte changes in response to disease.


The authors thank Zoo Atlanta for funding this research project and the animal care staff working with the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta.

Literature Cited

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2.  Mainka SA, He T, Chen M, Dierenfeld ES. Hematologic and serum biochemical values for healthy captive giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) at the Wolong Reserve, Sichuan, China. J Zoo Wildl Med. 1995;1:377–381.

3.  Raskin RR. Cytochemical staining. In: Weiss DJ, Wardrop KJ, eds. Schalm’s Veterinary Hematology. Sixth edition. Ames, IA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd; 2010:1141–1154.

4.  Salakij C, Salakij J, Apibal S, Narkkong NA, Chanhome L, Rochanapat N. Hematology, morphology, cytochemical staining, and ultrastructural characteristics of blood cells in king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah). Vet Clin Pathol. 2002;31(3):116–126.

5.  Salakij C, Salakij J, Narkkong NA, Trongwonsa L, Pattanarangsan R. Hematology, cytochemistry and ultrastructure of blood cells from Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus). Kasetsart J (Nat Sci). 2005;39:247–261.


Speaker Information
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Spencer Kehoe, DVM
Department of Veterinary Services
Zoo Atlanta
Atlanta, GA, USA

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