Those Stubborn Mules

 

Impossible foal

Photo and caption from the original Denver Post story linked below

I really appreciate people sending me articles. Thanks, Frank, for the one regarding the mule!

One of the tests we have imposed on the term “species” is that of reproduction. If two animals can reproduce and if the offspring is viable (meaning the offspring can reproduce), then we say the original pair are of the same “species.”

It has been a common thought that mules, which are the hybrids between horses and donkeys, do not reproduce. That would mean that the donkey and horse are 2 different species.

Leave it to a mule to be stubborn and defy genetics!  A Denver Post article posted July 26, 2007 and updated in August of 2013 was titled, “Mule’s foal fools genetics with ‘impossible’ birth.”

According to the article, “It’s an event so rare that the Romans had a saying, ‘when a mule foals’ — the equivalent of ‘when hell freezes over.’”

Yes it is a rare event, but not “impossible.” The article mentioned that there are about 50 such cases of mules having offspring. Genetic researchers certainly are intrigued about this and are trying to figure out how this works.

Unfortunately, the young foal died last August from complications after having slipped on the ice earlier in the winter. While alive, it was the center of genetic attention and seems to have opened up new areas of genetic research. This case, and many others like it, should make us question our definition of a species. At the very least, it also shows that the Biblical definition of a kind is a whole lot more useful than our man-made term, “species.”

To read the original article, see: Mule’s foal fools genetics with “impossible” birth.

 

Dave Nutting

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