I recently discovered the existence of the zorse: the offspring of a horse and a zebra. Yes, I know. Who’s idea was that, right? Presumably a particularly randy equine of more than usually cosmopolitan outlook…
Anyway, whatever, I want one.
And it made me think of this:
Elephants are intelligent, social animals with long memories – indeed, they have the largest brain size to body weight ratio of any creature other than us. So, if one were to introduce an African elephant to an Indian elephant, would they recognise each other as ‘cousins’? Would they be able to communicate? Breed, even?
There are even apparently two separate species of African elephant – but hybrids between the two commonly occur. Now, I thought the whole point of the difference between a species and a breed or race was that species cannot interbreed. Which is why, with all the seeming surface variation among human beings, we are still just different races, not different species. We can all interbreed quite happily. Indeed, with the exercise of a little common sense we can even communicate with one another.
However, witness the many ridiculous races or breeds of dog – a Chihuahua looks like a completely different animal species from an English Sheep Dog, for example, but mongrels between many breeds of dog occur (though god only knows how – they must be ingenious little fuckers, in more ways than one). Yet, surely we have already reached the point at which it is no longer physically possible. I give you the pictures below:
I’m also fascinated by a statistic frequently bandied about at the moment, viz. that we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees and bonobos. I mean, think about that. Only 2% of all the information our cells use to make us – the ape who has visited the Moon – is different from that used to make apes whose most sophisticated tool technology is currently the carefully selected and slightly modified twig.
We think there are such differences between all the races of humans on the planet, when really – apart from skin colour and hair types which are cosmetic adaptations to varying climates, and some slight variations in build – the supposed differences we see must be pretty much entirely cultural and environmental.
Anyway, right now I’m just glad I’m not a chihuahua, you know?