Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Science of Life

hybrid animals

In "The Science of Life" (c 1929) by H G Wells, J Huxley and GP Wells, the authors wrote "To-day it is possible to assert without any question that telegony is a mere fable, which could only have gained ground in the days when men were ignorant of the true mechanism of fertilization and reproduction. The supposed instances of telegony which are constantly being reported even to-day, invariably. Perhaps the most famous example is that of Lord Morton's mare. The mare, a pure Arabian, was mated with a zebra stallion, and produced a hybrid foal. On two later occasions, she was bred to a black Arab stallion, and gave birth to two further foals. These had legs which were striped even more definitely than those of the hybrid foal or the zebra sire himself, and one had some stripes on parts of the neck also. In addition, they had a stiff mane of very zebra-like appearance. Darwin himself accepted the evidence as sufficient proof of telegony. But when definitely planned and long-continued experiments were made, the proof escaped. Cossar Ewart, for instance, made a number of horse and zebra crosses to test the validity of the belief. When mares previously bred to zebras were afterwards mated with horse stallions, their colts were often without the least trace of zebra characters. In other cases, colts with some degree of striping were produced. But one mare gave birth to a striped colt as a result of her first mating, which was with a horse stallion ; while two later matings with other stallions, made after she had been successfully mated once and three times respectively with a zebra, gave unstriped offspring. In other cases, when striped colts were born to a mare and stallion after the mare had been previously mated to a zebra, Ewart took other mares, closely related to the first, bred them to the same Arabian stallion without having mated them previously with a zebra - and they, too, produced striped foals. In short, the production of striping (and also of erect mane) in foals is not a very uncommon occurrence in horses; it may appear whether previous impregnation by a zebra has taken place or not. The stripes of Lord Morton's foals were a mere coincidence, well illustrating the danger of drawing conclusions from single and therefore possibly exceptional cases, and the need for systematic and repeated experiments."

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