Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Genetic studies are increasingly allowing biologists to determine which species are, in fact, hybrids of two other species. One successful hybrid is the Puzzle Sunflower, above, a cross of the Common Sunflower and the Prairie Sunflower. Which raises the question: is the Puzzle Sunflower a species, or not? I would say, yes, but the absence of any rigorous way to make this determination is another consequence of evolution. Living things are always changing, and things in motion are hard to pin down and name. The question of whether a hybrid is a species has also been a legal question for the red wolf, since the animals that were re-introduced into North Carolina as "red wolves" seem to be hybrids of wolves and coyotes, possibly of gray wolves and coyotes, and therefore not related to the ancient red wolf -- unless "red wolves" were never anything but a hybrid population or even just a population of gray wolves with a tendency toward small size and reddish color.