South African Galago × Kellen’s Dormouse

Galago moholi × Graphiurus kelleni

Mammalian Hybrids

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

     
J.W.B. Gunning
J. W. B. Gunning
(1860-1913)

South African Galago
South African Galago
(Galago moholi)
Credit: Wikimedia, Ideonexus

The only evidence for this extremely disparate cross is a single sentence in an old report, which itself seems ambiguous (see below).

Jan Willem Boudewijn Gunning (1860 – 1913) was a Dutch physician who served as the director of both the Staatsmuseum and what was then known as the Pretoria Zoological Gardens (now the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa). In listing various hybrids that he had succeeded in obtaining, Gunning (1901, p. 263) seems to state that he easily obtained this distant cross in captivity. The following is the complete text of his short report entitled Experiments in Hybridity at Pretoria, which appeared in a scientific journal, The Zoologist: “I have at present five Zebras (Chapmans), three of which have been interviewed by a Donkey stallion: I am very

anxiously awaiting results which I will not fail to let you know in time. I have been very successful in breeding crosses between Mus chrysophilus and M. decumanus, and have about twenty-four at present. The result of a cross between the ordinary albino Mus musculus with the Striped Mouse (Arvicanthis pumilio) is a peculiarly cream-coloured, not striped specimen, which looks very much like a cream albino Mouse with black eyes, which stand out very distinct against the cream-coloured fur. I have also bred Galago moholi (Otolicnus galago) and Eliomys nanus with great ease, and am now trying to cross Canis mesomelas with a Collie-Dog, but have not seen any pairing yet, notwithstanding many attempts. — J. W. B. Gunning (Director, Zoological Gardens, Pretoria, Transvaal Colony).

If, by “bred Galago moholi (Otolicnus galago) and Eliomys nanus,” he means “crossed,” this statement is remarkable. Eliomys nanus is a synonym for one of the named races of Kellen’s Dormouse (i.e., of Graphiurus kelleni nanus), a rodent, while galagos are primates. This cross, then, would represent hybridization between mammals assigned to two different mammalian orders, Rodentia and Primates. It must be said, however, that the relevant sentence (“I have also bred Galago moholi (Otolicnus galago) and Eliomys nanus with great ease.”), read out of context, would be more plausibly interpreted as saying that Gunning bred some galagos and raised some dormice, separately. Thus, it may simply be an extraneous comment about simple breeding that somehow found its way in among a string of statements about hybrids. But given that the report is about experiments in hybridization, it does seem he is actually claiming he hybridized galagos with dormice. About all that can be said that might increase the plausibility of this claim is that these animals are in fact both small nocturnal arboreal omnivores, and that they are of about the same size and general appearance. The South African Galago and Kellen’s Dormouse come into natural contact in Angola and Zambia.

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By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).

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