Ligers and wholphins? What next?
Crazy mixed-up animals … what do they tell us? They seem to defy man-made classification systems—but what about the created ‘kinds’ in Genesis?
Wikimedia commons: Restle
If we can cross-breed a zebra and a horse (to produce a ‘zorse’), a lion and a tiger (a liger or tigon), or a false killer whale and a dolphin (a wholphin), what does this tell us about the original kinds of animals that God created?
The Bible tells us in Genesis chapter 1 that God created plants to produce seed ‘after their kind’ (vv. 11, 12). God also created the animals to reproduce ‘after their kind’ (vv. 20, 24, 25). ‘After their/its kind’ is repeated ten times in Genesis 1, giving emphasis to the principle. And we take it for granted. When we plant a tomato seed, we don’t expect to see a geranium pop up out of the ground. Nor do we expect that our dog will give birth to kittens or that Aunt Betty, who is expecting, will bring home a chimpanzee baby from the hospital! Our everyday experience confirms the truth of the Bible that things produce offspring true to their kind.
But what is a created ‘kind’? And what organisms today represent the kinds God created in the beginning? The creationist scientist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778), the founder of the science of taxonomy,1 tried to determine the created kinds. He defined a ‘species’ as a group of organisms that could interbreed among themselves, but not with another group, akin to the Genesis concept. (See aside below.)
Finding the created kinds
From Genesis 1, the ability to produce offspring, i.e. to breed with one another, defines the original created kinds. Linnaeus recognised this, but named many species2 without any breeding experiments, on the basis of such things as flower characteristics. In his mature years he did extensive hybridization (cross-breeding) experiments and realised that his ‘species’ concept was too narrow for the species to be considered as created kinds; he thought that the genus perhaps corresponded better with the created kind.3,4
The Created Cat Kind
Possible history of cats since Creation. Speciation (based on pre-existing created genetic information) probably occurred faster after the Flood due to greater environmental pressures, isolation due to migration of small populations, and many unoccupied ecological niches.
Even today, creationists are often misrepresented as believing that God created all the species we have today, just like they are today, in the beginning. This is called ‘fixity of species’. The Bible does not teach this. Nevertheless, university professors often show students that a new ‘species’ has arisen in ferment flies, for example, and then claim that this disproves the Genesis account of creation. Darwin made this very mistake when he studied the finches and tortoises on the Galapagos islands. (He also erred in assuming that creation implied that each organism was made where it is now found; but from the Bible it is clear that today’s land-dwelling vertebrates migrated to their present locations after the Flood.)
If two animals or two plants can hybridize (at least enough to produce a truly fertilized egg), then they must belong to (i.e. have descended from) the same original created kind. If the hybridizing species are from different genera in a family, it suggests that the whole family might have come from the one created kind. If the genera are in different families within an order, it suggests that maybe the whole order may have derived from the original created kind.
On the other hand, if two species will not hybridize, it does not necessarily prove that they are not originally from the same kind. We all know of couples who cannot have children, but this does not mean they are separate species!
In the case of three species, A, B and C, if A and B can each hybridize with C, then it suggests that all three are of the same created kind—whether or not A and B can hybridize with each other. Breeding barriers can arise through such things as mutations. For example, two forms of ferment flies (Drosophila) produced offspring that could not breed with the parent species.5 That is, they were a new biological ‘species’. This was due to a slight chromosomal rearrangement, not any new genetic information. The new ‘species’ was indistinguishable from the parents and obviously the same kind as the parents, since it came from them.
Following are some examples of hybrids that show that the created kind is often at a higher level than the species, or even the genus, named by taxonomists.
Images courtesy Camilla Maluotoga
Zonkeys result from a cross between a zebra and a donkey (left). ‘Tigger’ (right), belongs to Camilla Maluotoga, from New Mexico in the USA, and is the name she gave to this cross between a horse and a zebra, known as a zorse.
Mules, zeedonks and zorses
Crossing a male ass (donkey—Equus asinus) and a horse (Equus caballus) produces a mule (the reverse is called a hinny). Hybrids between zebras and horses (zorse) and zebras and donkeys (zedonk, zonkey, zebrass) also readily occur.
Some creationists have reasoned that because these hybrids are sterile, the horse, ass and zebra must be separate created kinds. However, not only does this go beyond the biblical text, it is overwhelmingly likely that horses, asses and zebras (six species of Equus) are the descendants of the one created kind which left the Ark. Hybridization itself suggests this, not whether the offspring are fertile or not. Infertility in offspring can be due to rearrangements of chromosomes in the different species—changes such that the various species have the same DNA information but the chromosomes of the different species no longer match up properly to allow the offspring to be fertile. Such (non-evolutionary) changes within a kind can cause sterility in hybrids.
A male African lion (Panthera leo) and a female tiger (Panthera tigris) can mate to produce a liger. The reverse cross produces a tigon. Such crossing does not normally happen in the wild because most lions live in Africa and most tigers live in Asia. Also, lions and tigers just don’t mix; they are enemies in the wild. However, the Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (USA), raised a lion and a tigress together. Arthur, the lion, and Ayla, the tigress, became good friends and bred to produce Samson and Sudan, two huge male ligers. Samson stands 3.7 m (12 feet) tall on his hind legs, weighs 500 kg (1,100 lbs) and can run at 80 km/hr (50 mph).
Wikimedia commons: Hkandy
Lions and tigers belong to the same genus, Panthera, along with the jaguar, leopard and snow leopard, in the subfamily Felinae. This subfamily also contains the genus Felis, which includes the mountain lion and numerous species of smaller cats, including the domestic cat. The cheetah, genus Acinonyx, belongs to a different subfamily.6 Thus the genera Panthera, Felis and Acinonyx may represent descendants of three original created cat kinds, or maybe two: Panthera-Felis and Acinonyx, or even one cat kind. The extinct sabre-tooth tiger may have been a different created kind (see diagram above).
The Panthera cats lack a hyoid bone at the back of the tongue, compared to Felis. Acinonyx has the hyoid, but lacks the ability to retract its claws. So the differences between the cats could have arisen through loss of genetic information due to mutations (loss of the bone; loss of claw retraction). Note that this has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution, which requires the addition of new information, not loss of information (which is to be expected in a fallen world as things tend to ‘fall apart’).
In 1985, Hawaii’s Sea Life Park reported the birth of a baby from the mating of a male false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) and a female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).7 The birth surprised the park staff, as the parents are rather different in appearance. Here we have a hybrid between different genera in the same family, Delphinidae (dolphins and killer whales).8 Since the offspring in this case are fertile (Kekaimalu has since given birth to a baby wholphin), these two genera are really, by definition, a single polytypic biological species.2 Other genera in the group are much more alike than the two that produced the offspring in Hawaii, which suggests that the 12 living genera might have all descended from the original created kind.
Rama the cama
Veterinarians in the United Arab Emirates successfully cross-bred a camel and a llama. The ‘cama’, named ‘Rama’, has the cloven hooves of a llama and the short ears and tail of a camel. The scientists hope to combine the best qualities of both into the one animal—the superior fleece and calmer temperament of the llama with the larger size of the camel.
Photo by Dave and Lynn Jolly
‘Genae’ the snake—the live, healthy offspring of snakes from two different genera (see main text).
Genae the hybrid snake
‘Genae’ (pictured right) resulted from a cross between an albino corn snake (Elaphe guttata) and an albino king snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) in a reptile park in California.9 Apparently, this particular intergeneric hybrid is fertile. Genae is almost four years old and already 1.4 m (4½ ft) long. The parent snakes belong to the same snake family, Colubridae; the success of this hybrid suggests that the many species and genera of snakes in this family today could have all originally come from the same created kind.
With the cattle kind, seven species of the genus Bos hybridize, but so also does the North American buffalo, Bison bison, with Bos, to produce a ‘cattalo’. Here the whole family of cattle-type creatures, Bovidae, probably came from an original created cattle kind which was on the Ark.10
Plant breeders have bred some agriculturally important plants by hybridizing different species and even genera. For example, triticale, a grain crop, came from a cross of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale), another fertile hybrid between genera.
During my years as a research scientist for the government in Australia, I helped create a hybrid of the delicious fruit species lychee (Litchi chinensis) and longan (Dimocarpus longana), which both belong to the same family.11 I also studied the hybrids of six species of the custard apple family, Annonaceae. Each of these two family groupings, recognised by botanists today, probably represents the original created kinds.
God created all kinds, or basic types, of creatures and plants with the ability to produce variety in their offspring. These varieties come from recombinations of the existing genetic information created in the beginning, through the marvellous reproductive method created by God. Since the Fall (Genesis 3), some variations also occurred through degenerative changes caused by mutations (e.g. loss of wing size in the cormorants of the Galápagos Islands).
The variations allow for the descendants of the created kinds to adapt to different environments and ‘fill the earth’, as God commanded. If genera represent the created kinds, then Noah took less than 20,000 land animals on the Ark; far fewer if kinds occasionally gave rise to families. From these kinds came many ‘daughter species’, which generally each have less information (and are thus more specialized) than the parent population on the Ark. Properly understood, adaptation by natural selection (which gets rid of information) does not involve the addition of new complex DNA information. Thus, students should not be taught that it demonstrates ‘evolution happening’, as if it showed the process by which fish could eventually turn into people.
Understanding what God has told us in Genesis provides a sound foundation for thinking about the classification of living things, as Linnaeus found, and how the great diversity we see today has come about.
A ‘geep’? No—a ‘chimera’
Despite the fact that the ‘geep’ has both sheep and goat in its parentage, and shares the characteristics of both species, it is not a hybrid. It is a ‘chimera’, formed by mixing the (fertilized) embryo cells of two different species.
The DNA in each adult cell (including sex cells) is thus either fully sheep or fully goat—hence there are patches of either thin white goat fur or thick sheep’s wool. Thus also, any offspring will be either all sheep or all goat. This artificial manipulation is very different from the situation where two animals of the same kind (but different species) mate producing live offspring.
Linnaeus and the classification system
Linnaeus established the two-part naming system of genus and species. For example, he called wheat Triticum aestivum, which means in Latin, ‘summer wheat’. Such ‘scientific’ names are normally italicised, with the genus beginning with a capital. When used in scientific works, the names are followed by the abbreviated name of the scientist responsible for the name. When ‘L.’ follows a name, this shows that Linnaeus first applied the name. For example, the name for maize or ‘corn’ is Zea mays L. Linnaeus named many plants and animals.
There can be one or many species in a genus, so genus is a higher level of classification. Linnaeus also developed the idea of grouping genera (plural of genus) within higher groupings he called orders, and the orders within classes. Linnaeus opposed the pre-Darwin evolutionary ideas of his day, pointing out that life was not a continuum, or a ‘great chain of being’, an ancient pagan Greek idea. He could classify things, usually into neat groups, because of the lack of transitional forms.
Later, other levels of classification were added so that today we have species, genus, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom. Sometimes other levels are added, such as subfamily and subphylum.
Kekaimalu the wholphin, a 19-year-old offspring of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphinwhale-dolphin, mated with a dolphin to produce a girl, Kawili Kai (above).
False killer whales (pseudorcas) and bottlenose dolphins are each from a different genus. Man-made classification systems were thrown into confusion when these two creatures mated and produced a live offspring (see main text).
This suggests that all killer whales and dolphins, which are all in the same family, are the one created kind.
This wholphin’s size, shape and colour are right in between those of her parents. She has 66 teeth—an ‘average’ between pseudorcas (44 teeth) and bottlenose dolphins (88).
Kekaimalu has since mated with a dolphin to produce a live baby.
References and notes
- The study of the naming and classification of organisms. Return to text.
- ‘Biological species’ is often used today to refer to a group of organisms that can interbreed to produce fertile offspring. It does not always correlate with the taxonomic ‘species’. Note that the kinds would originally have met the criterion for each being a separate biological species, since they did not interbreed with any other kind. Return to text.
- In Latin, ‘genus’ conveys the meaning of origin, or ‘kind’, whereas ‘species’ means outward appearance (The Oxford Latin Minidictionary, 1995). Return to text.
- Creationist biologists today often combine the Hebrew words bara (create) and min (kind) to call the created kind a baramin. Return to text.
- Marsh, Frank L., Variation and Fixity in Nature, Pacific Press, CA, USA, p. 75, 1976. Return to text.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica 98 CD. Other authorities call the Panthera genus Leo, so that the lion is then Leo leo. Return to text.
- Keene Rees, Waimanalo Hapa Girl Makes 10! Waimanalo News, May 1995, http://www.hotspots.hawaii.com/Wolphin.html, March 1, 2000. Return to text.
- The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 23:434, 1992. Return to text.
- Genae belongs to David Jolly, M.S. (USA). Genae was bred at a reptile park at Bakersfield. Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet snakes in North America, and snake fanciers have bred all sorts of colour variations, which are catalogued at http://members.aol.com/guttata319/Hawkherp/morfs.html, March 22, 2000. Return to text.
- See Wieland, C., Recreating the extinct Aurochs? Creation 14(2):25–28, 1992. Return to text.
- McConchie, C.A., Batten, D.J. and Vithanage, V., Intergeneric hybridization between litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) and longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.), Annals of Botany 74:111–118, 1994. Return to text.
(Available in Finnish)
Other hybrids not mentioned in this article are the Hybrid Stripe Bass, which is a cross between a saltwater striped bass and freshwater white bass. The very aggressive Rock Bass is said to be the result of crossing a Largemouth Black Bass and a Bluegill. Like the Rock Bass, the Hybrid Stripe is also an aggressive sort. Why are these hybrid fish usually extra aggressive?
Maybe they are aggressive because they are 'mixed up'? :-) Seriously, we would only be guessing to posit a biological basis for extra aggression in hybrids. But just as hybrids are often bigger, suggesting more growth hormone (?), perhaps the hybrids also have more of the hormones that promote aggression.
Have you ever considered a centaur, minotaur or other chimera hybrids?
As you say, these mythical creatures would be chimeras, with part of the body fully horse and part fully human, for example. They are not true hybrids where the chromosomes of both species are present in every cell. Chimeras do form, as the article says regarding the 'geep', but not of the mythical kind.
I think we must be a bit more cautious about kinds though. A creator can create things that are extremely similar (and can hybridize) without them having a common root (being created as the same kind).
So for example, Dolphins and Killer Whales could mate and produce living offspring, but have been created at the same time as separate species.
I would take evidence of this from the scripture (don't have it to hand) where God says not to mix different species of livestock (like sheep and goats) in this manner (this was to Israel in the of course, not something wrong across the board).
The Scripture you are thinking of is:
Lev 19:19 "You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material."
There was nothing morally evil about mixing yarns in a garment; it was part of the method that God used to remind the people of their 'ritual purity', their separation from the surrounding pagan nations (Lev. 20:24ff), to preserve the people through whom the messiah would come. This 'wall of separation' between Jew and Gentile was removed in the Cross (Eph. 2:11-18).
But it was also just plain good sense not to mix natural fibres because different fibres (e.g. flax and wool) have different shrinkage when washed, resulting in a rather out-of-shape garment. It would also be just plain dumb to sow a field with two different types of seed (it would be very difficult to harvest). Perhaps also the admonition about breeding of animals had a practical angle too: if you had a cow which had been bred for producing milk, it would be crazy to allow it to breed with ones that were good for producing meat.
The Hebrew translated as "different kind" above (kil'ayim) is not the same as translated "kind" in Genesis 1 (min), further indicating that the created kinds in Genesis are not in mind here.
So, I don't think that this issue of ritual purity for the Israelites in the Mosaic Law has anything to say about the scope of the original created kinds, which creationist biologists since Dr Frank Marsh reckon can be illuminated by looking at the extent of hybridisation possible, because if God created the various kinds to reproduce "after their kind" (Genesis 1), then clearly there were breeding barriers to ensure this. If breeding barriers between two species don't exist, then this is evidence that they belong to the original created kind.
I used to keep birds in an aviary. I got six roller pigeons from someone, and kept them there. A roller pigeon is a breed of Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) that does somersaults in flight. Mourning doves would get into the aviary; one summer, a female had three broods of two squabs each. At some point, one of the pigeons and one of the mourning doves bred together. I knew this only because I saw the offspring. Unfortunately, I didn't get decent photographs. Since I started doing bird photography, I get emails about birds in various locations. A number of hybrid birds have been reported, including hummingbirds and passerines. I suspect the reason we don't know about more is that we aren't observing them, not because they don't exist. Hybrids among species of cholla (Opuntia sp.) are also quite common. There are dozens of synonyms for Prickly Pear (also Opuntia sp.) Hybridization is exceedingly common.
The Created Cat Kind figure shows some interesting things. One is that some branches of the cat kinds died out before or during the flood. It seems to imply that there could be fossils of types that were not represented in the post flood world. The figure also shows Sabre tooth cats as possibly a different kind from the main cat line. I don't recall (and didn't find during a search) articles explaining why that might be so. I've read a number of Dr. Lightner's articles about baraminology, but that is based on studies of interbreeding of extant species. I wish there were more bible believing scientists, because these are very interesting topics to me.
Note the caption: "Possible history of cats since Creation." (emphasis added)
We don't have any extant sabre-toothed cats to do definitive studies on, hence my caution in putting them as a separate created kind. They might well have been derived from the same created kind as other cats.