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Of Kinds, Species and Hybrids

Updated on February 23, 2015

Of Kinds, Species and Hybrids

When Noah went into his ark he brought with him pairs of all “kinds” of animals. The designation of kind is unclear in scientific terms. Evolutionists gleefully point out that there are millions of species of animals and Noah could not possibly have brought even most of them on the ark. Biblical creationists point out that specie is a relatively recent term which is still under discussion and that kind represents a different taxonomic level. As a generalization kind is thought to be equivalent to family.

For those unfamiliar with taxonomic levels they are Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species. A species is generally considered to be a group of animals that can freely interbreed. As we shall see, both the common understanding of species and the scientific understanding of species are flexible. When two species interbreed they are called hybrids, even if the offspring are fully fertile and therefore reproductively a single species.

I will examine three kinds of animals, dogs, cats and birds. To most people there are many species of dogs; in fact, there is only a single species of domestic dog, which is in a fact a subspecies of grey wolf. There are 8 genus of Canids (wolf or dog like animals) recognized today (not including extinct genus). Within the Genus Canis there are four species and two subspecies.

The domesticated dog with which most people are familiar is a single subspecies of Canis lupus, it is known as Canis lupus familiaris. Canis lupus is the grey wolf, familiaris is the domesticated dog, and Canis lupus dingo is the dingo. As is expected each of these animals can freely interbreed with the others.

The coyote (Canis latrans) and the golden jackal (Canis aureus) which are different species are also known to produce fertile offspring when they mate with domesticated dogs and with grey wolves. They also mate with each other and again produce fertile offspring. Each of these animals maintains its status as a species because behaviourally and morphologically (appearance) they are distinct. With a total of 36 species of canid recognized today, only two or three kinds would have been needed on Noah’s ark.

The cats represent a more complicated story. We have seen among dogs that hybridization occurs primarily within the genus. Among cats hybridization occurs among Genus. The level of genetic compatibility differs with cat hybrids with the males being mostly sterile and the females fertile. This still leaves them within the designation of Kind.

There are 8 genuses of cats, from the ordinary housecat (Felix catus) to the big cats (Panthera) such as the lion, tiger and leopard. While there are famous hybrids within the genus Panthera (liger/tigon), there are also hybrids among the genus. One researcher indicated that there are seven hybrids from the liger, the largest of the hybrids, to the black footed cat, the smallest of the hybrids. With 38 species represented in the cat family, hybridization among seven of the eight genuses would suggest that Noah may have only needed two kinds of cats aboard the ark. This would represent 4 individuals rather than the 76 required for the individual species recognized today.

With birds the net is spread much wider. Birds represent one of the larger families of animals today. Over a thousand species are recognized within the sparrow-finch families. This is why the term Kind is a generalization at the family level. Hybridization of birds occurs not simply within the family, but between families. Nine different families of birds are recognized as interbreeding with varying levels of fertility. These nine families encompass over 1300 species. In terms of Noah’s ark this reduces the number of birds needed from over 2600 to 2.

As genetic studies continue to improve our understanding of DNA and the genetic relationships among animals the number of morphological species that are simply subspecies will increase. As further studies are done in baraminology it is also expected that there will be a clearer delineation of what species can be included in a single kind. Even this brief survey shows that the number of species included within a kind greatly reduces the number of animals that Noah would have needed to take on the ark.


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