PDA

View Full Version : Can reptiles cross-breed?



Tog
2012-Jun-26, 12:31 PM
This came up at work today. Can two different species of lizards breed to produce offspring (sterile or not).
How about snakes?
Could a cross be done with human intervention?


How this came up.
A woman that used to work here came in with a bearded dragon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Bearded_Dragon) that was huge (for a bearded dragon). I don't mean long, I mean fat. When I first saw it, I thought it was a small chuckwalla (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuckwalla).

This morning someone asked me if I'd seen it and I mentioned my confusion at first glance. She said "maybe it was a mix."

I don't think that would work, but I'm only basing that on the idea that two different species bumping into each other in the wild would probably fight for the territory if they were similarly sized.

I do know from my personal experiences with my iguana that a male iguana isn't all that picky for a few weeks in the spring. I still have a scar on my wrist I refer to as a "lizard hickey," but in that case, I was something he'd known for several years, and he was just as content to defile my work shirt as he was my arm. I'm guessing that was scent based.

His last year, he started treating my like a rival male and we had a few ritual battles for dominance. I swept the series 3-0.

Swift
2012-Jun-26, 12:49 PM
I don't know about reptiles, but it seems conceivable, depending on how different the species were.

I know cross-breeding can happen in some amphibians, such as in certain salamanders.

Elukka
2012-Jun-26, 12:56 PM
I'm guessing you saw an overweight bearded dragon. Reptiles will get fat too if they eat too much or eat the wrong kind of food and it's just as bad for them as it is for us.
I'm not aware of any reptilian hybrids though I guess it's conceivable they could exist between closely related species. You're never going to get a mix of two totally different animals like a chuckwalla and a bearded dragon, though.

Tog
2012-Jun-26, 01:08 PM
Hmm...

When I followed this sort of thing more closely the only type of custom creatures I ever saw referenced were different phases of snakes, like ball pythons with stripes instead of the usual blotchy pattern. This was done by playing with the temperatures during incubation.

That's another part I wondered about. If it was possible, where are the Labradoodles of the snake world? Custom designed freaks of nature like Burmese pythons with cobra hoods?

Are the amphibians (mostly) sterile like mules, or can they go on to create generations of sala-mutt-ers?

Swift
2012-Jun-26, 01:23 PM
Are the amphibians (mostly) sterile like mules, or can they go on to create generations of sala-mutt-ers?
Actually, it is even more complicated than that.

One example around Ohio are the Jefferson - Blue-Spotted hybrids
LINK (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/jeffersonsalamander/tabid/6663/Default.aspx)

The Jefferson salamander was named in honor of Jefferson College (indirectly for Thomas Jefferson, who was a famous statesman, president, and an accomplished naturalist). It often crossbreeds with the blue-spotted salamander, producing a fertile hybrid known as the triploid Jefferson’s salamander (Ambystoma platineum). The hybrid is always a female. Externally, it is almost identical to the Jefferson’s salamander. The triploid mates with the male Jefferson’s salamander, producing additional triploid females.
So you have a line of female hybrids who mate with male Jeffersons.

One of the curators at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Tim Matson, has done a lot of research on these hybrids; I have to admit to barely understanding it.

Trebuchet
2012-Jun-26, 04:21 PM
This Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelonoidis_nigra_abingdoni) about the death of the last Pinta Island tortoise mentions that hybrids still exist.

Swift
2012-Jun-26, 04:49 PM
This Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelonoidis_nigra_abingdoni) about the death of the last Pinta Island tortoise mentions that hybrids still exist.
Those are hybrids between various sub-species. I don't think anyone is surprised that sub-species can mate to produce fertile offspring. In fact, that would almost be the definition of the differenece between a sub-species and a species.

Tobin Dax
2012-Jun-27, 12:26 AM
This Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelonoidis_nigra_abingdoni) about the death of the last Pinta Island tortoise mentions that hybrids still exist.

I just went to Pharyngula to get that link and post it here. I hadn't thought about what Swift said, but it's a fair point.

Trebuchet
2012-Jun-27, 03:56 AM
The concept of "species" is not nearly so hard and fast as most people think.

Jens
2012-Jun-27, 04:46 AM
Custom designed freaks of nature like Burmese pythons with cobra hoods?

I think there you're asking for an unreasonable thing, because pythons and cobras are not closely related species. So that for example, you might have success breeding a chimpanzee with a bonobo, but if you try to breed a chimpanzee with a gibbon you wouldn't have any luck I'm sure.

Kaptain K
2012-Jun-27, 06:30 PM
The Everglades are infested with Pythons, both Rock Pythons and Burmese Pythons, and they do interbreed. The offspring have the size of the Burmese (larger) and the agressiveness of the Rock Python. Whether they are two different species, or just subspecies, I don't know.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-27, 06:36 PM
Pretty much by definition they're sub-species. From the fact that they interbreed.

Noclevername
2012-Jun-28, 03:11 PM
Pretty much by definition they're sub-species. From the fact that they interbreed.

Lions and tigers are seperate species, but they can interbreed, producing infertile offspring. It's only if the snakes produce fertile offspring that they are considered subspecies.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-28, 03:51 PM
Lions and tigers are seperate species, but they can interbreed, producing infertile offspring.
But they don't do so in nature.

Which brings us back to my can't vs. don't definition.

BioSci
2012-Jun-28, 04:17 PM
The concept of "species" is not nearly so hard and fast as most people think.

Yes - it is useful to realize (to a large part) that the concept of "species" is a artifact of our desire to put things in categories.

Species are not "real" biological entities. How "species" are defined depends greatly on the "whim" of the taxonomists (some are "lumpers" and some are "splitters") and the particular types of organisms being so classified. All "definitions" of what a specie "is" have exceptions and classes of organisms that don't "fit."

- Our "common" perception of what a specie "is" is generally shaped by our familiarity with various large animals - where the different interbreeding populations are quite distinct and relatively easy to categorize.
- Plants are more complicated and harder to separate into "species" - new species of plants are even commonly identified as a result of hybridization from two (or more) previous species.
- insects are terribly complicated - with thousands of species that are "different" but very similar
- Bacterial specie definitions are a complete muddle - due, in part, to widespread exchanges of genes between bacterial "species."

Regarding the OP question - Yes, but it depends on how close the two reptile species actually are - requiring testing - "natural" breeding, artificial insemination, or even in vitro manipulations...

BigDon
2012-Jun-28, 08:31 PM
I one time had a shipper complain to my driver when I told their children how to gender the red-eared sliders in their large livingroom terrarium/coffee table.

The kids mentioned to me when I was looking at the turtles that they were going to take them to a vet to be gendered. And the kids mother was standing right there

I just looked at the turtles and said:

"Those are all three males. You can tell by the long claws on their forelegs. They use those claws to tickle the female turtles face so she'll let them mate with her."

and even though it made the kids laugh, mom gave me a brief deer in the headlights look and disappeared.

To go complain to my driver.

Even he didn't understand her problem and just "yes"ed her until he could talk to me.