Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

Aug 02, 2018, 02:46
Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

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.

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.

A report published last week by ocean research organisation Cascadia Research Collective concluded that a mammal spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, in August past year is indeed the product of mating between a dolphin and a whale. The marine scientists tagged the hybrid with satellite tracking Global Positioning System, along with a companion, to see where they might go. Hybrids have been known to occur in the wild between other species, but this is only the third time that a dolphin and a whale have had a confirmed offspring and the first time ever for these particular species thereof. Later they were able to obtain a biopsy sample that proved them correct.

The label "wholphin" has stuck for a hybrid born in 1985 at Hawaii's Sea Life Park of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.

The hybrid, pictured again in the foreground, was fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin, scientists said. One melon-headed whale was also spotted chilling with a pod of rough-toothed dolphins.

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Scientists are reluctant to use the term, however, and Dr Baird said the animals can not be considered their own species without more widespread hybridisation. In addition, they saw and tagged pantropical spotted dolphins, also rare in Hawaiian waters.

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

The odd pair and their closeness to the other dolphins have led the researchers to speculate that the accompanying melon-headed whale is the hybrid's mother.

And while this is a new find, it's not quite a "new species", as is being reported web-wide.

The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others.

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The discovery of a hybrid animal might sound surprising, but it turns out that hybridization among different species is not unheard of.

A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up travelling with rough-toothed dolphins.

But an animal hybrid doesn't necessarily mean a new species - not even established hybrids, such as the mule.

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

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