When they announce discovery of a new breed of bird or fish or whatever, are they always meaning “Never before discovered” or does it sometimes mean a new crossbread from previous breeds/types? |TTI

When they announce discovery of a new breed of bird or fish or whatever, are they always meaning “Never before discovered” or does it sometimes mean a new crossbread from previous breeds/types?


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  1. It depends on the type of animal (wild v. domestic) but the majority of the time they mean never before discovered. But discovered can mean different things, maybe it a species that we’ve never seen before or maybe it’s an animal that we misclassified. An example of this is the platypus, after genetic testing it is though that there are two subspecies not one species as originally thought.

  2. With the way you phrased your question, the answer is; yes.

    Often when talking about newly discovered species it’s either a newly discovered specimen classified as it’s own species or a known one that turns out to have been falsely counted towards one species but it actually a new (or sometimes a known) different species.

    A new ‘breed’ of domesticated animal is often the result of selective breeding or cross breeding.

    Edit: what /u/Science_is_punny said (I wonder why it said 0 comments.. That comment is 4 hours old)

    Edit 2: /u/exotics and /u/FancyScientist made excellent points; breeds and species are used in different contexts.

  3. The meta to this is that our definition of “species” is outdated and predates modern genetics. Your question has a messy answer because the system itself is messy. At some point it needs to be updated based on genetic similarities, not external cues like morphology (shape).

    Speciation is a process, a slow divergence from an arbitrary set of ancestors. In that sense, everything is a bunch of crossbreeds. We’ll never be able to describe all life because life keeps evolving faster than we can keep up with. It’s just an arbitrary definition of when an individual has mutated enough to become a new species.

  4. There are like 30-something officially proposed species definitions, ranging from ones based on the ability of organisms to reproduce to ones based solely on genetic variation. In modern times, often when a new species is discovered it is a ‘cryptic’ species. Cryptic species are groups of animals that are morphologically and ecologically similar, differing mainly in behavior. When the behavioral barriers to gene flow are strong enough, it can cause the genomes of two populations to diverge enough so that despite looking the same and having the same environment and even having the ability to produce totally fertile and healthy offspring, they don’t because of the behavioral differences. These cryptic species are usually only revealed after sampling individuals from the wild and comparing genomic variation. Edit: grammar

  5. I’ve heard conflicting opinions about what the word *species* actually means. My current understanding is something like “A group of animals that cannot have fertile offspring with members of other groups”. I still find it kind of arbitrary, because one species branching into two doesn’t happen overnight. So there must be a grey zone where some individuals are able to interbreed, while others can’t. Or am I misunderstanding the term completely?

  6. It’s a big planet with lots of stuff in it. We have yet to catalog it all. Even if someone has been living next door to a common local bug/fish/bird/mammal that does not mean that it has been identified and cataloged by taxonomists. So, if a biologist trips over something new in their neighbors backyard, it does not necessarily mean it is new and undiscovered but instead it may mean that it just has not been categorized all official like.

  7. As a rule of thumb, a “new breed” is a new species. A species is a taxonomic “unit” for an organism indicating it is unique in genetics, distribution, behaviour, or other characteristics that make it mostly incompatible with other “species” (exceptions occur, and the real grounds for deciding whether two organisms are separate species or not is debated at times).

    So a new breed is a completely new organism. For instance, we have tigers, cheetahs, and leopards, and we’ve just discovered something that is pink, with yellow stripes and spots, which is completely unlike anything ever seen. Or it can be a new insect or plant, where the differences between the new species and one we know could be minute (several beetle families contain 1000s of identical brown species, distinguished only by genetics and genitalia).

    Sometimes though the clickbait news sources call a “new discovery” for species that have been reclassified. For instance, a bird may be determined to represent two or more additional species, that we thought were the same. Those additional bird species are then given a separate name. This is hardly a new discovery because often we always knew they were around, albeit just considered them under an old “umbrella” species name.

    So now on to your topic of crossbreeds. Many species in history are thought to result from the pairing of two different species, for instance the clymene dolphin. That hybrid is fertile and then continues to become isolated and eventually, over thousands and thousands of years, become so isolated in genetic and behaviour traits that it is recognizable as its own species. This takes many, many thousands of years though. If two species hybridized in the modern day and the hybrid offspring were produced, that itself is not grounds for a new species. Often hybrids are temporary, don’t live to continue progeny, or are sterile and can’t produce offspring. Permanent hybrid populations, which are consistent enough to eventually (beyond our lifetime) create new species, are uncommon.

    **TL;DR**, a new breed either means a new species entirely, or a reclassification of an old species into separate names (which may or may not be discovered already).

    Crossbreeding (hybridization) is not grounds for a new breed, unless that new breed has consistently formed over thousands of years and shows traits of being its own species.

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