I think everyone who is from some place anywhere at all knows that there are some species of critters that don’t belong there, and in fact, one of those species is probably you. Furthermore, if you’ve had science or biology classes growing up, you’re well aware of ecosystems, niches, and the “invasive species” that… invade them. Just to name a few invasive species in Florida: fire ants, pythons, iguanas, monkeys, lionfish, flamingos, and many species of parrots. Here are lists and lists of them. Not even those tiny little lizards (called Brown Anoles) you may have come to love if you’re lucky enough to be a non-Florida native are not original to the state (they hail from Cuba and the Bahamas and my brother’s friend while growing up’s garage).
Sometimes these invasive species are plants and molds and yucky things. Sometimes they are also cute and cuddly. A classic case you may also have heard about is the invasion of rabbits in Australia, which I think Shaun Tan’s illustrated book, The Rabbits, presents as tragically as it does beautifully (and this is an art college, why use words).
Besides the rabbits (and humans) killing everything, so are Australia’s domestic cats and dogs. In fact Australia’s dogs are also interbreeding with the native Dingos, which themselves only arrived there from Southeast Asia and Indonesia 5,000 to 18,000 years ago. This interbreeding obviously increases the hybrid population while decreasing the “pure” dingo population. It’s yet unsure the ecological impact this interbreeding will have and there are many attempts to keep the so-called “wild dogs,” wild and keep the dingo pure. There is a whole Wikipedia article devoted to this topic you can read here.
Another cased of interbreeding and “invasion” that is just beginning to be understood is the case of the grolar/pizzly/prizzly bear, choose which ridiculous name you like best. Due to global warming/climate change/end times, choose which scientific name you like best, the habitats of the Grizzly Bear (and some other similar species of bear) are beginning to merge with those of the Polar Bear. Northern Canada is just becoming to hot and tropical these days and combined with mining and roadbuilding the Grizzlies are being pushed northward, while the Polar Bears are running lower on the vast spaces of ice they need to survive. Most previous encounters between these two species have been violent, but the encounters have been coming more “romantic’ (it’s Valentine’s Day soon, “Grromeo and Growliet, anyone?). One thing leads to another and… y’know. Next thing we know we get a very dangerous bear-filled episode of Maury.
There haven’t been too many confirmed and documented cases of this hybrid offspring in the wild yet, but it is believed that the hybridization is spreading, which is not good news even if you can accept something called a “pizzly bear.” It’s a threat to polar diversity, and the offspring are infertile, yet still take up all the time and resources of other struggling species. This article is brief, but expands on the issue.
Interbreeding among species is representative of a changing world. For humans it can mean a culturally, genetically, and socially positive change and a step on the way to greater global alliance. However, the same does not necessarily apply to the animal kingdom. While this may be part of the evolution of some species, it means the end of evolution for others.
Anyone else know of some interesting cases of two species coming together in the wild to create hybrids?