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What Is Interspecies Breeding?

Everyday Einstein on the possibility of hybrids, chimeras, and even half-human/half-vampire creatures. Read on!

By
Lee Falin, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #3

A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers

An interesting note about hybrids is that they typically don’t get their own species name. A mule’s proper scientific name is Equus asinus x Equus caballus, which means a cross between a donkey (E. asinus) and a horse (E. caballus). Is this some form of hybrid discrimination by scientists or is something else going on here?

Actually one of the things that most scientists agree on about the definition of a species is that organisms of the same species should be able to reproduce. Since mules (with very rare exceptions) are infertile, they are disqualified from the species name game.

The reason for this infertility is typically related to chromosomal differences. Horses have 64 chromosomes, while donkeys have 62. These mismatched chromosomes tend to cause problems during meiosis, when reproductive cells are being created.

Other factors that might conspire against the romance of two star-crossed organisms include differences in mating rituals, habitats, food preferences, mating times, and physical incompatibilities. These inconveniences are sometimes collectively referred to as “reproductive isolation.”

So What About That Half-Vampire Baby?

So the next time you and your friends are watching a movie together where a werewolf falls in love with a vampire, you can smugly reach for the popcorn and declare, “A Canis lupus x Homo sapiens mating with a Homo lamia*? That’s absurd.”

* Lamia is the closest Latin I could find to “vampire.” Lacking more direct evidence, I can only assume that vampires are in the same genus as humans.

Liger image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech. 

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