Published: Wed, August 01, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

After encountering a large pod of melon-headed whales, the researchers tagged two of them, to see where they might go.

It's the first of its kind ever documented, and was seen spending most of its time alongside another melon-headed whale. There's still limited information on the Hawaiian populations of the two species involved, so further studies are necessary to determine whether this played a role in the hybrid's birth.

The hybrid had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, but it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin.

So, the bad news is, we don't have a new species of whale-or dolphin-on our hands. Both species belong to the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphin) family, but the report notes that cross-species unions between them are unusual: It's only the third recorded example in the Delphinidae family, and the first between these two species. Melon-headed whales usually don't swim in these waters, so when scientists spotted the whale, they put satellite tags on the animal.

The research team will return to Kauai next week, hoping to confirm their theory.

Researchers were able to collect a skin and blubber sample of animal using a crossbow (yep, being a marine biologist is more badarse than you'd think) with a dart designed lightly prick its skin, going no deeper than 1.5cm. News of the hybrid spotted in the wild during Navy-funded research to study the effects of sonar, proves the "genetic diversity of the ocean", said Sea Life Park Curator Jeff Pawloski.

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"While hybridization can at times lead to new species, most of the time this does not happen", Cascadia researcher Robin Baird told CNN, pointing that there was only a single hybrid found this time.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense". But don't call it a "wholphin", they say.

Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one incredible animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year.

That hybrid, named Kekaimalu, still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.

Science known cases where genetic hybrids are either completely sterile, or are reproduced with great difficulty, as is the case with the mule - a hybrid of a donkey and a Mare.

The male "wholphin", which is believed to be close to adult age, was spotted swimming with dolphins near the island of Kauai past year, according to Dr Robin Baird, the marine biologist who headed the expedition.

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