The death of a week-old giant panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington could be linked to an abnormal liver, the zoo's chief veterinarian said on Monday.
Preliminary results of an examination of the cub, believed to be female, show the tiny animal had fluid in its abdomen and a discolored liver, said veterinarian Suzan Murray.
"This can suggest there was a liver component to the death," Murray said.
Another "unusual finding," according to Murray, was fluid in the cub's abdomen, more normal for adult pandas. "The amount appears moderate to increased for such a small cub," she said.
The results were released a day after the cub's death was discovered. Panda keepers and zoo volunteers heard a distress call on Sunday morning from its mother, Mei Xiang, and found the cub dead.
The body of the cub, born September 16 and weighing about 3.5 ounces (100 grams), was in good condition and there were no outward signs of trauma or infection. It had not yet been given a name.
Mei Xiang had given birth after five years of failed efforts at conception. Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born July 9, 2005. Tai Shan is now at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong.