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Biologists in Maine have reported the August 2003 capture of a creature that can only be called a Blynx - a cross between and Bobcat and a Lynx. At the time the Authorities put it down as an inexplicable fluke of nature - a one-time event (since hybrids like this are notoriously sterile) - and released the radio collared critter into the wild to see what he'd do.
What he did was die because they put the collar on too tightly and the poor animal starved to death unable to eat. Too bad. But, said the Authorities, the information gained would only have been academic any way since there would never be another like him and at least they got the collar back.
A few weeks later another Blynx turned up in Michigan, except this one was female, and she had kittens... three of them. A remarkable feat for a sterile hybrid... so what's going on?
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) and Lynx (Lynx canadensis) share the same genus making them closely related. The fact that they could possibly interbreed was hardly surprising since for thousands of years humans have been genetically engineering a specific farm animal - a cross between a donkey and a horse - the mule. Mules, of course, are sterile and the product of human interference in the natural order of things. Similar interspecies crosses were assumed to follow the same rules.
But apparently the Lynx and the Bobcat were more closely related than anyone thought, and they did it (apparently) without the help of our own meddlesome species. The fact that they're interbreeding is raising questions (and hackles) in biological circles. The fact that they can reproduce is causing some real concern because no one knows what the result of these unions will beget.
And no matter what your take on this issue is, everyone should watch what happens very closely because we could be seeing the birth of a new species. Should these Blynx hybrids begin back-crossing with their own kind, the traits of the Blynx could become genetically fixed and presto! a new species is born! (Interspecific hybrids are one postulated source for new species and should we witness such an actual transformation we could fill in a serious gap in evolutionary theory - it's own [pardon me here, but I can't resist] Missing Lynx!).
These Blynx apparently can also travel. As the map shows the ranges of these two species intersect roughly at the Canadian border and this would be the presumed homeland for this new creation.
Possible Illinois Sighting
The appearance of this hybrid is also interesting in that it throws some light on a very odd cat sighting I was given in November of 2003 (and immediately rejected as the result of an overactive imagination, faulty observation or too much strong drink) by a young lady who is a student here in Carbondale, Illinois.
According to her she witnessed a large cat with pointed, tufted ears, a stubby tail and looking "very odd" skulking about her house on the outskirts of town. She asked me if Lynx were native here since she knew (from personal experience and observation of numerous Bobcats) that it was no Bobcat but it also didn't sound like a Lynx since she specifically mentioned it was spotted. Her description sounded very much like a Blynx.
Since we're a good five hundred miles from any Lynx territory this Blynx (if that's what it was) is a great traveler. Of course five hundred miles for an animal that doesn't have to be anywhere in particular and has nothing but spare time isn't all that great an accomplishment, still, ending up in Carbondale, at exactly the right time, to be seen by exactly the right person, who would then tell me, just before I discovered the existence of such a hybrid is, to say the least a neat bit of synchronicity... to say nothing of being a little surreal...or even spooky...almost a message....
But there you are.
We may have at least one Blynx in southern Illinois.
[Ed. Note - This animal, if legitimate, may be an artificially produced hybrid. People who raise both Bobcat and Lynx as a hobby report these crosses often. The feline seen in Carbondale may be the result of one of these hybrids either escaping or being deliberately released - not an unheard of situation. Just ask the Brits...]
Copyright © 2003 Jim Jung
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