Increase in such characteristics as size, growth rate, fertility, and yield of a hybrid organism over those of its parents. Plant and animal breeders exploit heterosis by mating two different purebred lines that have desirable traits. The first-generation offspring generally show, in greater measure, the desired characteristics of both parents. Since this vigour may decrease if the hybrids are actually mated together, the parental lines must be maintained and crossed for each new crop or group desired.
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Offspring of parents that differ in genetically determined traits (see genetics). The parents may be of two different species, genera, or (rarely) families. The terms “mongrel” and “crossbreed” refer usually to animals or plants resulting from a cross between two races, breeds, strains, or varieties of the same species. Because of basic biological incompatibilities, sterile hybrids (those that cannot produce living young) such as the mule (a hybrid between a jackass and a mare) commonly result from crosses between species. Some species hybrids, however, are fertile and can be sources for the formation of new species. Many economically or aesthetically important cultivated plants (e.g., bananas, coffee, peanuts, dahlias, roses, bread wheats, alfalfa, etc.) originated through natural or artificially induced hybridization. Hybridization is important biologically because it increases necessary genetic variation within a species.
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