Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'
- Author: Rogelio Becker Aug 02, 2018,
Aug 02, 2018, 2:46
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.
Some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, but other things would still need to occur for this to be the case, including more widespread hybridisation, Mr Baird said.
In a study published last week, scientists say the animal spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species.
It is also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.
"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.
To make matters more jumbled, a melon-headed whale is one of the various species that is called a whale but is technically a dolphin.
Baird told CBS News that scientists were able to get a biopsy sample from the hybrid to confirm its unusual parentage.
It didn't, for example, have the rounded head of melon-headed whales, and yet its beak was shorter than those of rough-toothed dolphins. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal" as reported by express.co.uk.
About the discovery of a new species of dolphins, scientists have not yet spoken, because it is not known whether this is a new animal to create viable offspring. This provided additional information on the effects which Navy sonar has on local marine life.
While Baird noted that the chances of finding the hybrid for a second time are slim, researchers will be returning to Kauai next month to further investigate the discovery. "I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense", he said.
Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one unbelievable animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year.
Melon-headed whales, he explains, usually travel together in groups of around 250. For instance, perhaps when the mother was looking for a mate, she was unable to find a suitable one among her own species.
Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age. There have been other cases of wholphins in the past, most notably at Hawaii's Sea Life Park aquarium in 1985, when a female bottlenose dolphin had a calf with a male false killer whale.
This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name.
The hybrid named Keikaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.