BIG ANIMAL NEWS
Australian scientists have discovered, for the first time in the history of modern science!, that two separate species of sharks are capable of hybridizing. Now before everyone gets all in a tizzy about the potential for whale sharks and great whites to reproduce (a scary and bad prospect) it is very important to note that the two species that crossbred are sister species. The blacktip shark and the Australian blacktip shark are very closely related, although genetically diverse enough to be valid and different species —they look a lot alike, but the Aussie is typically a bit longer and they have differing numbers of vertebrae, plus genetic differences like allozyme and mitochondrial DNA variations and genetic markers.
The really exciting part about this news is that the team of scientists discovered that there are multiple generations of these hybrids patrolling Australia’s coastal waters. What does this mean? It means that the hybrid babies (F1* or first generation, if you will) of Mr Blacktip and Ms Australian Blacktip are they themselves virile and capable of reproducing, “y’know, “making babies.” F2 or second generation hybrids were discovered, which is really cool and sorta rare with hybrids. For instance, the mule, a hybrid between a lady horse and a gentleman donkey, is sterile. What’s not so cool, is that with reproducing hybrids, there’s the threat of one species (the Australian Blacktip in this case) disappearing. But if there are multiple generations of these hybrids out there and still healthy number of Australians (there are) that threat seems minor.
*F1 actually stands for filial one, which is science’s way of saying “first generation. “iPhone F1 came out in 2007, et cetera.” #ScienceNerd
H/T: The indomitable Andrew Thaler.