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Monday, September 3, 2012

Hybrid Vigor

In 1879, M'sieu Lemoine of Nancy, France, crossed two species of South African irises.

The result was a vigorous hybrid with brilliant scarlet flowers.  It became hugely popular, under the name of "monbretia."

In 1913, George Russell planted several kinds of lupin in his gardening allotment in York, England.

The result was a colorful range of hybrid lupins.  Mr. Russell sorted out the most spectacular, and sold the seeds for a penny each. These rainbow colored lupins became a gardening sensation, worldwide.

These two success stories are just two examples of what is known as "hybrid vigor," where the offspring of mixing seem to improve on the qualities of both parents. Hybrid breeding is used to improve strains of maize, sorghum, rice, sugar beet, onions, spinach, broccoli, cannabis, cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, and chickens.

Pointing this out, Dominion Post columnist Bob Brockie says it is strange that since ancient times cross-breeding in humans has been regarded with antipathy.  Wars and religious movements have strived to maintain "racial purity." "Miscegenation" and "mongrelizing" are bad words. And yet, as he says, "Racial and bloodline purity fly in the face of genetic research."  The facts demonstrate that "human hybrids enjoy better average health, intelligence and height than their purer parental stock." 

Paleontologists suggest that the human race took an upward leap when Neanderthals and Denisovians interbred with Homo sapiens.

Demographers, writing in the European Journal of Human Genetics theorize that urbanization, bringing different races together in the cities, has resulted in human hybrid vigor.

"And let's face it," says Brockie; "many half-castes are great lookers."

Fans of half-Maori seafaring detective Wiki Coffin would agree.

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