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Ligers, Zorses, and Zonkeys: What are Animal Hybrids?

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

When it comes to reproduction, it is usually assumed that animals of two different species cannot reproduce. For instance, lions and tigers should not be able to breed, but yet they can. What exactly is going on, and what can happen as a result?

How can different species breed?

When two animals interbreed, the DNA of both parents mix and creates an animal with a combination of traits from both parents. When they are of the same species, there is usually little issue when it comes to harmful traits. Yet, when both animals are different species, such as a Zebra and a Horse, the differences can cause issues. Zebras and horses have different numbers of chromosomes, for instance.

In most cases, when two different species interbreed, the resulting fetus is often rejected by the body. But in some cases, the DNA of the two animals are so similar, that the animal can make it to term. This rarely happens in the wild; however, due to animals usually occupying different areas or separated due to instinctual behaviors.

What happens when species mix?

The most common effect of two different species having offspring is that the offspring is almost always infertile, such as in cases of Ligers and Mules. This is because these different species often have different numbers of chromosomes. As a result, it prevents the DNA from forming a proper tetrad during Mitosis.

Usually, the effects are detrimental to the animal. Most Zebroids suffer from Dwarfism, while Ligers often grow too big for their organs to handle. This is made worse by the fact that many of these animals are forced to breed for commercial gain, and that brings a host of ethical concerns.

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to hybrids, and this article did not even scratch the surface. However, learning more about them is fascinating, and should be done more often. So check out some of the links provided, or the video below, for more information.

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