Single cross hybrids - result from the cross between two pure bred lines and produces an F1 generation called an F1 hybrid (F1 is short for Filial 1, meaning "first offspring). The cross between two different homozygous lines produces an F1 hybrid that is heterozygous; having two alleles, one contributed by each parent and typically one is dominant and the other recessive. The F1 generation is also homogeneous, producing offspring that are all similar to each other.
Double cross hybrids - result from the cross between two different F1 hybrids.
Three-way cross hybrids - result from the cross between one parent that is an F1 hybrid and the other is from an inbred line.
Triple cross hybrids - result from the crossing of two different three-way cross hybrids.
Population hybrids - result from the crossing of plants or animals in a population with another population. These include crosses between organisms such as interspecific hybrids or crosses between difference races.
While it is possible to predict the genetic composition of a backcross on average, it is not possible to accurately predict the composition of a particular backcrossed individual, due to random segregation of chromosomes. In a species with two pairs of chromosomes, a twice backcrossed individual would be predicted to contain 12.5% of one species' genome (say, species A). However, it may, in fact, still be a 50% hybrid if the chromosomes from species A were lucky in two successive segregations, and meiotic crossovers happened near the telomeres. The chance of this is fairly high, 1/2^(2×2)=1/16 (where the "two times two" comes about from two rounds of meiosis with two chromosomes); however, this probability declines markedly with chromosome number and so the actual composition of a hybrid will be increasingly closer to the predicted composition.
Hybrids are often named by the portmanteau method, combining the names of the two parent species. For example, a zeedonk is a cross between a zebra and a donkey. Since the traits of hybrid offspring often vary depending on which species was mother and which was father, it is traditional to use the father's species as the first half of the portmanteau. For example, a liger is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger, while a tigon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion.
Hybrids should not be confused with chimaeras such as the chimera between sheep and goat known as the geep. Wider interspecific hybrids can be made via in vitro fertilization or somatic hybridization, however the resulting cells are not able to develop into a full organism. An example of interspecific hybrid cell lines is the humster (hamster x human) cells.
Many plant genera and species have their origins in polyploidy. Autopolyploidy resulting from the sudden multiplication in the number of chromosomes in typical normal populations caused by unsuccessful separation of the chromosomes during meiosis. Tetraploids or plants with four sets of chromosomes are common in a number of different groups of plants and over time these plants can differentiate into distinct species from the normal diploid line. In Oenothera lamarchiana the diploid species has 14 chromosomes, this species has spontaneously given rise to plants with 28 chromosomes that have been given the name Oenthera gigas. Tetraploids can develop into a breeding population within the diploid population and when hybrids are formed with the diploid population the resulting offspring tend to be sterile triploids, thus effectively stopping the intermixing of genes between the two groups of plants (unless the diploids, in rare cases, produce unreduced gametes) Another form of polyploidy called allopolyploidy occurs when two different species mate and produce hybrids. Usually the typical chromosome number is doubled in successful allopolyploid species, with four sets of chromosomes the genotypes can sort out to form a complete diploid set from the parent species, thus they can produce fertile offspring that can mate and reproduce with each other but can not back-cross with the parent species. Allopolyploidy in plants often gives them a condition called hybrid vigour, which results in plants that are larger and stronger growing than either of the two parent species. Allopolyploids are often more aggressive growing and can be invaders of new habitats. Sterility in a hybrid is often a result of chromosome number; if parents are of differing chromosome pair number, the offspring will have an odd number of chromosomes, leaving them unable to produce chromosomally balanced gametes. While this is a negative in a crop such as wheat, when growing a crop which produces no seeds would be pointless, it is an attractive attribute in some fruits. Bananas and seedless watermelon, for instance, are intentionally bred to be triploid, so that they will produce no seeds. Many hybrids are created by humans, but natural hybrids occur as well. Plant hybrids, especially, are often stronger than either parent variety, a phenomenon which when present is known as hybrid vigour (heterosis) or heterozygote advantage. Plant breeders make use of a number of techniques to produce hybrids, including line breeding and the formation of complex hybrids.
Some plant hybrids include:
Some natural hybrids are:
Some horticultural hybrids:
Hybridisation between two closely related species is actually a common occurrence in nature. Many hybrid zones are known where the ranges of two species meet, and hybrids are continually produced in great numbers. These hybrid zones are useful as biological model systems for studying the mechanisms of speciation (Hybrid speciation). Recently DNA analysis of a bear shot by a hunter in the North West Territories confirmed the existence of naturally occurring and fertile polar bear/grizzly bear hybrids. There have been reports of similar supposed hybrids, but this is the first to be confirmed by DNA analysis. In 1943, Clara Helgason described a male bear shot by hunters during her childhood. It was large and off-white with hair all over its paws. The presence of hair on the bottom of the feet suggests it was a natural hybrid of Kodiak and Polar bear.
In some species, hybridisation plays an important role in evolutionary biology. While most hybrids are disadvantaged as a result of genetic incompatibility, the fittest survive, regardless of species boundaries. They may have a beneficial combination of traits allowing them to exploit new habitats or to succeed in a marginal habitat where the two parent species are disadvantaged. This has been seen in experiments on sunflower species. Unlike mutation, which affects only one gene, hybridisation creates multiple variations across genes or gene combinations simultaneously. Successful hybrids could evolve into new species within 50-60 generations. This leads some scientists to speculate that life is a genetic continuum rather than a series of self-contained species.
Where there are two closely related species living in the same area, less than 1 in 1000 individuals are likely to be hybrids because animals rarely choose a mate from a different species (otherwise species boundaries would completely break down). In some closely related species there are recognized "hybrid zones".
Some species of Heliconius butterflies exhibit dramatic geographical polymorphism of their wing patterns, which act as aposematic signals advertising their unpalatability to potential predators. Where different-looking geographical races abut, inter-racial hybrids are common, healthy and fertile. Heliconius hybrids can breed with other hybrid individuals and with individuals of either parental race. These hybrid backcrosses are disadvantaged by natural selection because they lack the parental form's warning coloration, and are therefore not avoided by predators.
A similar case in mammals is hybrid White-Tail/Mule Deer. The hybrids don't inherit either parent's escape strategy. White-tail Deer dash while Mule Deer bound. The hybrids are easier prey than the parent species.
In birds, healthy Galapagos Finch hybrids are relatively common, but their beaks are intermediate in shape and less efficient feeding tools than the specialised beaks of the parental species so they lose out in the competition for food. Following a major storm in 1983, the local habitat changed so that new types of plants began to flourish, and in this changed habitat, the hybrids had an advantage over the birds with specialised beaks - demonstrating the role of hybridization in exploiting new ecological niches. If the change in environmental conditions is permanent or is radical enough that the parental species cannot survive, the hybrids become the dominant form. Otherwise, the parental species will re-establish themselves when the environmental change is reversed, and hybrids will remain in the minority.
Natural hybrids may occur when a species is introduced into a new habitat. In Britain, there is hybridisation of native European Red Deer and introduced Chinese Sika Deer. Conservationists want to protect the Red Deer, but evolution favors the Sika Deer genes. There is a similar situation with White-headed Ducks and Ruddy Ducks.
In a hybrid, any trait that falls outside the range of parental variation is termed heterotic. Heterotic hybrids do have new traits, that is, they are not intermediate. Positive heterosis produces more robust hybrids, they might be stronger or bigger; while the term negative heterosis refers to weaker or smaller hybrids. Heterosis is common in both animal and plant hybrids. For example, hybrids between a lion and a tigress ("ligers") are much larger than either of the two progenitors, while a tigon (lioness × tiger) is smaller. Also the hybrids between the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) are larger than either of their parents, as are those produced between the Common Pheasant and hen Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). Spurs are absent in hybrids of the former type, although present in both parents.
When populations hybridize, often the first generation (F1) hybrids are very uniform. Typically, however, the individual members of subsequent hybrid generations are quite variable. High levels of variability in a natural population, then, are indicative of hybridity. Researchers use this fact to ascertain whether a population is of hybrid origin. Since such variability generally occurs only in later hybrid generations, the existence of variable hybrids is also an indication that the hybrids in question are fertile.
Regionally developed ecotypes can be threatened with extinction when new alleles or genes are introduced that alter that ecotype. This is sometimes called genetic mixing. Hybridization and introgression of new genetic material can lead to the replacement of local genotypes if the hybrids are more fit and have breeding advantages over the indigenous ecotype or species. These hybridization events can result from the introduction of non native genotypes by humans or through habitat modification, bringing previously isolated species into contact. Genetic mixing can be especially detrimental for rare species in isolated habitats, ultimately effecting the population to such a degree than none of the originally genetically distinct population remains..
In agriculture and animal husbandry, the green revolution's use of conventional hybridization increased yields by breeding "high-yielding varieties". The replacement of locally indigenous breeds, compounded with unintentional cross-pollination and crossbreeding (genetic mixing), has reduced the gene pools of various wild and indigenous breeds resulting in the loss of genetic diversity. Since the indigenous breeds are often better adapted to local extremes in climate and have immunity to local pathogens this represents a significant genetic erosion of the gene pool for future breeding. Newer, genetically engineered (GE) varieties are a problem for local biodiversity. Some of these plants contain designer genes that would be unlikely to evolve in nature, even with conventional hybridization. These may pass into the wild population with unpredictable consequences and may be detrimental for the success of future breeding programs.
A number of conditions exist that limit the success of hybridization, the most obvious is great genetic diversity between most species. But in animals and plants that are more closely related hybridization barriers include morphological differences, differing times of fertility, mating behaviors and cues, physiological rejection of sperm cells or the developing embryo.
In plants, barriers to hybridization include blooming period differences, different pollinator vectors, inhibition of pollen tube growth, somatoplastic sterility, cytoplasmic-genic male sterility and structural differences of the chromosomes.