What is Hybridization?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Many hybrid fish species, such as hyrbid trout variants, have been introduced to game fishing reserves because of their hardiness.
Many hybrid fish species, such as hyrbid trout variants, have been introduced to game fishing reserves because of their hardiness.

When a plant or animal is bred with a plant or animal from different stock, the process is known as hybridization. There are numerous reasons to create hybrids, including increasing genetic diversity and breeding for specific traits. It is frequently practiced in agriculture, to make stronger, healthier plants with desirable characteristics. Animal breeders also use the process to create new breeds or to try to breed out unwanted traits, such as hip dysplasia in some purebred dogs.

A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.
A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.

The most common type of hybridization involves crossing two organisms of different breeds within the same species. This is also called crossbreeding. In agriculture, it is used to create healthier crops or new flavors, such as the tangelo, a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo. In agriculture, it is vitally important to maintain genetic diversity, and by extension the health and longevity of a crop. Many large agricultural companies engage in monocropping, planting only one strain of one crop, which is very harmful for diversity and for the plant. Should the crop be susceptible to a particular fungus or insect, the whole field will be lost. Hybridized crops, on the other hand, tend to be more resistant to disease and infestation.

Broccolini, a hybrid crop.
Broccolini, a hybrid crop.

In animal breeding, hybridization is used to create new breeds or to make a breed stronger. Many purebred animals are also inbred, due to a limited genetic pool, which tends to bring out genetic defects in animals. By hybridizing, breeders bring fresh genes into the mix, although the resulting animal is not a purebred. Depending on the rules of the stud book for the breed, this may or may not matter. In some cases, a crossbred animal can be bred to purebreds to bring the next generation more in alignment with the breed standard, and the mixed breed animals will be accepted into the studbook.

Hybridizing an orange, tangerine and grapefruit created the Ugli.
Hybridizing an orange, tangerine and grapefruit created the Ugli.

In another variation, two animals of different species within the same genus are bred to each other. This is not always possible, and when it can be achieved, the resulting animal or crop is often sterile. Most animals hybridized in this way, such as mules and zorses, a horse/zebra cross, cannot reproduce naturally. Plant hybrids, on the other hand, are usually perfectly capable of breeding. This will increase the overall genetic health of the plant population, and in some cases will bring out a desired trait, such as seedlessness.

Hybridization also occurs in nature, and it can bring out favorable traits from two different gene pools. It allows animals to adapt to changing environments, and if the hybrids thrive, a new species may emerge.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon297963

How is hybridization dangerous? There has to be some sort of danger to all of this.

anon88657

how does hybridization contribute to specialization?

anon64155

no. but it's favored.

anon20179

is hybridization necessary for agriculture?

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Many hybrid fish species, such as hyrbid trout variants, have been introduced to game fishing reserves because of their hardiness.
      Many hybrid fish species, such as hyrbid trout variants, have been introduced to game fishing reserves because of their hardiness.
    • A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.
      A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo.
    • Broccolini, a hybrid crop.
      Broccolini, a hybrid crop.
    • Hybridizing an orange, tangerine and grapefruit created the Ugli.
      Hybridizing an orange, tangerine and grapefruit created the Ugli.
    • Minneola tangelos are hybrids between white grapefruits and tangerines.
      Minneola tangelos are hybrids between white grapefruits and tangerines.