Miscegenation for Plants and Animals

Hybrid Goose
Hybrid Goose (Photo credit: K Schneider)

The article was one of those pieces you don’t expect to be offensive. But once I read the summary, I was torn whether to read on. I did because it made me so mad. The article in question is in the November-December issue in Audubon magazine and entitled, “Mixed-up” by Katherine Bagley (p. 42-46). The summary reads, “A global warming melts ice caps and alters landscapes, species separated for millennia are coming into contact and mating, the debate over what, if anything we should do about their hybrid offspring is heating up.”

A seemingly edited (and cleaned-up) version appears on the web at http://www.audubonmagazine.org/articles/climate/climate-change-causing-some-mixed-wildlife. The print issue can probably be found at your local library.

The print article goes on to detail the angst some scientists experience because of ‘cross-species’ mating. From hybrids of golden-winged and blue-winged warblers to polar and grizzly bears, “cross-species” pairing are causing much discussion. There is an arrogance to the thinking that humans should do something about it.

This is miscegenation for plants and animals. Miscegenation is “interbreeding between members of different races or the mixing of a mixture of races by interbreeding”.

The United States has a long disgraceful past of dictating blood quantum and who could marry whom. Blood quantum is percentages of ‘race’ which supposedly designated a person’s outlook, mental capacities, character, rights, group identity, marriage partners etc. It was used on both Africans and American Indians. Africans and American Indians didn’t decide all these things for themselves, but these things were decided for them. An example would be the Racial Integrity Act and the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. Until the 1970s, it was illegal in many U. S. states for humans of different ‘races’ to legally marry. Many of my grandparents ignored all this. I don’t think some of them legally married.

I don’t know if the author or the people interviewed for the Audubon article realized they are using miscegenation and ‘race-purity’ concepts for plants and animals. Although the web article seemed to be edited, the print version is very scary.

There is something deep within the Western psyche that thinks ‘pureblood’ is best, that mixtures are bad and mixtures only combine the worst of both.

The species and race categories that humans are so worried about are human-created. Maybe birds simply think of themselves as birds. Maybe Blue Jays think of themselves as a ‘tribe ‘ and not a species or a race. Maybe it is’ same thing with bears, oak trees, and etc.

English: Close-up of a hybrid between a Goldfi...
English: Close-up of a hybrid between a Goldfinch and a Canary. Tarragona, Spain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been many times when I am birding with a group and we can’t decide if a bird is one species or another. We just acknowledge the bird as a mixture and move on. No big whoop or gnashing of teeth. It is, what it is.

Donna with Moose in Nova Scotia
Donna. Hybrid of American Indian X African.

It is pretty clear from my photograph that I am a mixture. My grandparents were a checkerboard of American Indian and African ancestry. I take this ‘race-purity’ thing seriously because its evil has affected my family for hundreds of years here in United States.

Here are some direct quotes from the article. Take some of the reference to ‘animals’ and replace it with ‘humans’. What do you think? My comments are in parentheses.

“Pairings, in which one parent species is threatened usually hastens its decline, though scientists aren’t certain why one set of genes wins out over the other, as Vallender has seen with blue-winged warblers surviving while golden-winged warblers die off.” (They don’t die off, they combine. I am both American Indian and African.)

“What spurs the two species to interbreed isn’t well understood, says Forman” (Maybe its attraction, close proximity, whatever.)

“the hybrid offspring face a series of unique challenges” (With humans, these challenges are visited upon the offspring in the form of discrimination tactics, laws, and policies.)

Hybrid Black Duck X Mallard
Hybrid Black Duck X Mallard (Photo credit: Dendroica cerulea)

“Stuart Pimm, a species extinction expert at Duke University, says that wiping out hybrids is the best way to protect threatened species – though doing so would be tricky, he admits.” (I find this mind-set is particularly offensive and scary. They are basically talking about genocide.)

Pimm goes on to say, “This is not one of those circumstances where the choices are easy ones, but those hybrids are a threat to many valued species.” (Valued to who? How do the hybrids feel? Do they get a voice?)

From the sidebar of the article: “Though it might seem odd, intermingling isn’t a rare occurrence in the wild. By some estimates, up to 10 percent of animal species and 25 percent of plant species occasionally mix it up.” (Odd? That says a lot about what the author thinks.)

Much of the thinking above, shows the same deep-seated mentality promoting ‘racial-purity’, ‘pure-breeds’, ideas against ‘mixing’ and other noxious ideas. If one of the scientist quoted in this article reads this, I hope they really think about the ideas reflected. Wiping out hybrids even if it where possible is contemplating a mass murder like the murder of the American Bison, Bald Eagles or wolves.

Somehow, hybrids have been determined to be bad. What if they are actually good? What about the beloved theory of evolution? Would killing hybrid animals be fighting against evolution? Do the scientists wonder, if perhaps the interbreeding animals are doing what they need to do to survive the changing climate?  Perhaps, if they don’t interbreed and commingle attributes, neither species will survive. If animals can foretell impending disaster and escape from it, maybe they are doing the same thing by “interbreeding”. What do you think?

One comment

  1. Boy our arrogance just keeps getting worse…if we look at our DNA and our origins we are all hybrids…and without that hybrid would we even be alive? I doubt it…thanks for bringing this article to light Donna.

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