Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

Kimberly A. Wood under Cascadia Research Collective NMFS permit 20605

Some other news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species.

While surveying whales and dolphins off the Hawaiian Islands, scientists spotted a creature they've never seen before: a peculiar hybrid between a dolphin and a small whale. He suspects the one melon-headed whale traveling with the rough-toothed dolphin group is likely the hybrid's mother and has been hanging out with the pod for a while, creating "a greater than normal likelihood of inter-species mating".

In addition to tagging, tracking, and taking tissue samples from some of the creatures, including the whales, whale-dolphin hybrid, and pantropical spotted dolphins, the researchers also recorded underwater vocalizations of the animals in the area. Like orcas, beluga whales and pilot whales, melon-headed whales are actually a species of dolphin, or delphinidae - and dolphins are a sub-family of whales to boot. Perhaps in the future, there could be more dolphin and whale hybrids, but it remains to be seen if this previously rare event will become more commonplace down the line.

In some cases, hybrids breeding with hybrids can ultimately lead to the formation of distinct new species, but there's no evidence that's happening here, according to Baird.

However, reports identifying the animal as a "wholphin" are entirely false, they say.

The so-called wolphin has been confirmed by scientists after it was spotted on a research trip near Kauai island.

However, it wasn't until a biopsy that they were able to confirm their suspicions.

This is believed to be the first hybrid between these two species.

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'This is the first known hybrid between these two species'.

'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said.

Below the leading edge of the dorsal fin, the patterns on it were like those of melon-headed whales, but at the base of and immediately below the dorsal fin, it had darker-colored blotches, similar to those found on rough-toothed dolphins.

Hybrids generally occur when there's a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline.

But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions.

What do you think about the dolphin and whale hybrid?

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know", said Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski in response to the new discovery, which he said was proof of the "genetic diversity of the ocean".

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