Hybrids and hapax legomena-driven retrieval

Carl Feynman (carlf@atg.com)
Thu, 24 Jul 1997 11:02:25 -0400

At 03:28 PM 7/23/97 -0500, Thom Quinn wrote:

> What if the Hybridization occurs between two sister species, and
>the offspring are better adapted, have higher variability, and are
>fertile. These creatures would not be evolutionary dead ends, instead,
>they would be evolutionary BEGINNINGS! FIG 3 shows just that. For a
>hybrid to take root in the parent species niche, we would expect this
>pairing happens often.

There are a great many examples of such phenomena described in section 5 of

Here's a famous (and ironic) story:

In 1927, the Soviet cytologist Karpchenko crossed the radish, Raphanus
sativus, with the cabbage, Brassica oleracea, trying to produce a plant with
the leaves of a cabbage and the roots of a radish. Despite the fact that the
plants were in different genera, he got a viable hybrid. The hybrids were
interfertile with each other, but not interfertile with either parental
species. Unfortunately the new plant (genus Raphanobrassica) had the foliage
of a radish and the root of a cabbage. It is not recorded whether Stalin
had him shot for his failure.

Topic change:

I found document this by recalling that I had once heard of such a case,
years ago, and the organism's name was raphanobrassica. That made it easy
to find this document through Alta Vista. Perhaps in the age of search
engines, the best way to learn information is to assosciate a few bizarre
buzzwords with any topic, just as I assosciated 'speciation through
hybridization' with 'raphanobrassica'. Then it will be easy to pull up the
actual information when you need it.

This might be called the 'hapax legomena strategy'. (A hapax legomena is a
word or phrase that occurs only once in a given corpus).

It occurs to me that I have been using this strategy unconsciously. Rather
than keep bookmarks to some topics, when I need to know about technical
diving, I look for articles containing 'trimix', and when I need to know
about stellar nucleosynthesis, I look for 'helium flash'. Who needs a
bookmark file when you've got a vocabulary?