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This Planet is a series of short video stories that draw on the best new videos, awesome graphics, and surprising facts about climate, energy and innovation.

Will Hybrid Animals Help Species Survive?

This Planet Chronicle

Will Hybrid Animals Help Species Survive?

Evelyn Messinger

Is it possible that some species could escape extinction by using a human trick – what we call “winging it”? While we humans are good at innovation under pressure, we think of evolution as a slow-track phenomenon, and that it is our species alone who can defy its rules.

 And yet, as this New York Times Magazine article  with the cool graphics explains, there appears to be a secret backdoor to species adaptation: hybridization, when individual animals of related species cross paths, have sex and produce offspring. 

Sometimes hybrids are evolutionary dead ends, as today’s This Planet episode, Bears! And Other Hybrids, points out. The most common example of cross-species hybridization, the mule, is almost always infertile, and is likely why hybridization has such a bad rep.

But sometimes, closely related species produce fertile offspring that mix the traits of their parents, like Lynx and Bobcat, Eastern Wolf and Coyote. And as the talented Mr. Hank Green of Scishow explains, the Grizzly Bear and the Polar Bear can produce The Majestic Grolar Bear:

 Scientists are rethinking their assumptions about the evolutionary value of hybridization, now that the behavior of animals under species-wide pressure is getting easier to observe. It’s worth repeating that the WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report estimates that 52% of this planet’s species have already gone extinct. If the future holds more grolars, coywolves and blynxes, it may not be a reason to rejoice, but can give us hopes about the adaptability of Mother Nature.

Click the image to download the report.

Click the image to download the report.

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