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This question arises given the definition of father and mother as seen in the Spanish dictionary composed by the Royal Spanish Academy. Basically it says that a father/mother is a man/woman or a male/female animal that has engendered/given birth to an individual of the same species (Spanish: "especie").

The Spanish word "especie" could also be translated here as "kind", but let's assume it refers to its zoological definition. That definition would be mostly true, but what about mules or ligers?

In the case of mules, they are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. A male donkey is considered to be of the species Equus asinus, while a female horse is an Equus caballus. The mule is an individual of the species Equus asinus♂ × Equus caballus♀, but what is exactly that? It is the set resulting from the addition of the two parent species, or is it a complete, new species? In other words, are mules considered to be of the same species of a donkey or a horse? Or what they all have in common is just the genus?

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  • $\begingroup$ Mules are not a species because they can't reproduce. The problem seems to be that the dictionary definition doesn't correspond to the real world. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 21 at 16:09
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TL/DR We usually don't give specific names to those hybrids.

This is a fairly complicated question, actually, without an easy answer. Hybridization can have different outcomes, depending on how different the hybridizing species are. The cases you mention (liger, mules) actually do not deserve a specific names, because, first, they don't occur in nature, and, second, they are sterile, so there's no reproduction, hence no progeny. This lack of descendants goes against any defenition of species that we have in biology. There are cases where hybrids might become their own species, for example the butterfly Heliconius heurippa appears to be a species that evolved through hybridization between two closely related Heliconius species. There are also many examples in plants and more are being discovered in animals. These cases do receive a species name, because they occur in nature and populations can be predictably found.

Another case, similar to the cases you mention, involve hybridizations that occur in nature, but are rare and the individual rarely has any significance effect on the population. Sometimes those individuals are fertile, but look so different that might not be able to reproduce. Other times they can only reproduce with one of the parental species and if this happens successfully, new alleles can be introgressed into the parental genome. But for what we know, reproductive barriers between species tend to be successful in nature, tend to be broken down with human intervention (captivity, movement of species, among others) and, in most cases, don't have a significant evolutionary impact, except the cases when they do.

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