Ligers, Camas, and Zonkies Oh My!

What’s that in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s a swoose!?
The earth is inhabited by millions of species. From reptiles to felines, the variety of scales and shades of feathers is endless. However, does this abundance of diversity ever expire? The answer is no. The Earth has found yet another way to surprise it’s inhabitants. Species of different kinds are reproducing and creating hybrids unique to both parent species.
Hybrids do occur naturally. For example, the species mentioned before, a swoose, is the combination of a goose and a swan. Another pair of similar species that breed are polar and grizzly bears. The result is known as a grolar bear. Yet another example is the coywolf. This hybrid links back to a wolf and coyote mating. This particular phenomena is so frequent that all red wolves hold genetic information found in coyotes.
In the wild, continuous hybrid mating can be located around what is called a hybrid zone. Here two species capable of reproduction come into frequent contact. For example, two separate species of mussels occasionally mate in a specific region. If the species mate too often there is actually a possibility that the two species may join into one. However, if the species mate with such rarity that their genes become solidary the bridge between them may be completely broken off. In turn the event of their hybridization would be eliminated.
Regardless of these masterpieces made in nature, hybrids can be rooted back to man. Humans have experimented with different species in order to create the “perfect organism.” The goal of this testing is to birth an organism that is made for a specific purpose. One such organism would be a cama. This creature is produced by mating a dromedary camel with a llama. Through this the cama receives the strength and size of a camel but ignores their stubborn behavior. Instead, the cama picks up the calmer characteristics of the llama. Also, the llama passes down it’s soft coat that can be shaved off the animal and sold for profit. Thus it is more beneficial for one to own a cama as opposed to a llama or dromedary camel.
On the other hand some species seem to lack purpose. As mentioned in the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, ligers are thought of as make believe entities. However, scientists have made this fantasy into a reality. Zoos will often bring up a male lion and a female tiger from a young age to familiarize the two individuals. At the time of breeding they are thus comfortable and reproduce to create a liger, also known as a tigon. People from all over come to see this rarity. Such an attraction brings in profit however, the experimental animal has little other purpose.
Despite naturally and scientifically occurring hybrids, many of these diverse animals lack fitness. Fitness is the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce. The hybrids that are birthed are subject to reduced hybrid fertility, reduced hybrid viability, and hybrid breakdown. Reduced hybrid fertility results in sterile offspring. Thus these hybrids cannot mate and prevent the production of more hybrids. Reduced hybrid viability is the decrease of an organism’s ability to survive. For example, a swoose may not survive to adulthood because of it’s genes not accommodating to it’s environment as well as a goose’s or swan’s would. The final aspect that hurts the chances of hybridization is hybrid breakdown. This is most common in plants. Regardless of whether the hybrid is in the fauna or flora family the organism and their offspring will get weaker with every generation. Eventually they will die off due to their feeble genes. All of these aspects affect the chance that hybrids have in becoming common occurrences.
Despite their mystical auras and odd appearances, hybrids are realistic entities. Not only can scientists assist the creation of these organisms, hybrids can actually come about on their own. When considering the earth and all the organisms that inhabit it, remember that the possibilities are endless.


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