The Zedonk Problem

The Zedonk Problem

Update: 2020-07-077
Share

Description

‘Today I learnt that tigons and ligers are what you get when lions and tigers interbreed?!’ surprised listener Jamz G tells the doctors. ‘What determines whether species can interbreed?’

Geneticist Aoife McLysaght studies molecular evolution. She explains the modern definition of a species, built on ideas from Aristotle, Linnaeus and Darwin: a species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring. Hybrids – such as ligons and tigers – are usually infertile, because their common ancestors long ago diverged into the lions and tigers we know today. However, this definition isn’t absolute, and there are many ways a new species can be formed.

Hybrids also offer rich study subjects for scientists. Mathematical biologist Kit Yates discusses why he’s been reading research papers about hebras and zorses (horse x zebra) as their patterns offer insights into how cells spread and develop into organisms, building on a prediction made by codebreaking mathematician Alan Turing.

And it turns out that these hybrids are even more intriguing. As speciation and evolution expert Joana Meier explains, hybrids are not always infertile. Hybridisation can lead to successful new species arising, such as in Lake Victoria’s cichlid fish, who it seems have been having a wild evolutionary party for the last 15,000 years. And the picture gets even murkier when we discover that modern genetics reveals our human ancestors successfully mated with Neanderthals.

Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
Producer: Jen Whyntie
Comments 
In Channel
The Mosquito Conundrum

The Mosquito Conundrum

2021-01-1945:11

The Pizza Diet

The Pizza Diet

2020-12-2942:42

The Martian Mission

The Martian Mission

2020-12-1543:10

We’re back!

We’re back!

2020-12-0111:03

The Space Burrito

The Space Burrito

2020-07-1434:21

The Zedonk Problem

The Zedonk Problem

2020-07-0740:49

The End of Everything

The End of Everything

2020-06-3044:48

The Sting in the Tail

The Sting in the Tail

2020-06-2343:04

The Seeded Cloud

The Seeded Cloud

2020-06-1633:58

The Growling Stomach

The Growling Stomach

2020-06-0934:52

We’re back!

We’re back!

2020-06-0302:14

The Exotic Wormhole

The Exotic Wormhole

2020-03-0637:50

A Cold Case Part 2

A Cold Case Part 2

2020-02-2834:29

A Cold Case Part 1

A Cold Case Part 1

2020-02-2134:18

The ASMRnswer

The ASMRnswer

2020-02-1438:14

Hannah's ASMR cocktail

Hannah's ASMR cocktail

2020-02-1404:21

loading
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store
00:00
00:00
x

0.5x

0.8x

1.0x

1.25x

1.5x

2.0x

3.0x

Sleep Timer

Off

End of Episode

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

15 Minutes

30 Minutes

45 Minutes

60 Minutes

120 Minutes

The Zedonk Problem

The Zedonk Problem

BBC Radio 4