Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey: Mule breaks laws of nature in Portugal

As the Portuguese mourn the death of Christ this Easter, the country is presented with the birth of a freak of nature. The fact which has gripped this Catholic nation is that a fundamental law of nature has been broken: a mule has given birth. A mule is a hybrid, the result of an act of copulation between a horse and a donkey and being a hybrid, is not supposed to have the ability to conceive. Now the rules of science and the laws of nature are broken as a mule gives birth to a healthy specimen. The fact is so unusual that Portuguese specialists have started to investigate the case. It is known that the mule in question cohabited with a horse and a donkey and the first tests are under way to establish the paternity, using microsatellites in molecular marker batteries. Chromosome studies show a strange panoply of a mosaic of different cell populations within the same animal, proving that various genetic structures are functioning at the same time. Professor Teresa Rangel of UJAD University and Professor Antunes Correia, of the Lisbon Veterinary Medicine Faculty are coordinating studies to discover how the event took place. Meanwhile, the scientific community is debating what to call the new baby. Professor Antunes Correia suggested “Interspecific Hybrid” but…what a horrible name!


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