What is the reproductive mechanism that prevents interbreeding between species?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Because interbreeding can destroy the genetic integrity of a species, causing it to become progressively infertile or extinct, evolutionary changes in anatomy and biology developed to prevent interbreeding between species. The specific term is Reproductive Isolation, which acts to prevent some, any, or all stages of reproduction from occurring. Reproductive Isolation is very important in keeping animal species separated. Without separated species, the food chain would become disrupted and many species would become extinct.

While some species of animal and plant are similar enough that they can interbreed -- horses and donkeys can breed to produce mules, and many plants can be hybridized -- most different species are significantly different and cannot reproduce. In most cases, sex between species has no result, as the sperm of the male is just too biologically different to fertilize the females eggs. In other cases, the method of reproduction is too difficult, or impossible; a cat cannot fertilize fish eggs, because the mechanism is incompatible, which is a type of mechanical isolation. Meanwhile, while humans and apes share 95% of their genetic sequence, most studies have shown that the sperm and egg of humans and apes simply cannot reproduce; the biology is distinct enough that the sperm will not attach, so the egg will die.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial