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FEATURE ARTICLE

Hybridization and Extinction

In protecting rare species, conservationists should consider the dangers of interbreeding, which compound the more well-known threats to wildlife

Donald Levin

Figure 4. Tough evergreen shrub native to the West Indies . . .Click to Enlarge Image

The destruction of species remains a central concern to conservationists and the public in general. Some plants and animals are at risk of extinction for obvious reasons: They may be hunted or harvested faster than their populations can regenerate, or they may be in decline because they have lost too much of their habitat to development. The author considers yet another threat to rare species: hybridization with more populous cousins. This process may be more subtle than some of the better-known threats, but it is widespread and affects a host of different organisms, everything from sunflowers to wolves.


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