New Hybrid Whale-Dolphin Discovered Off Hawaii

01 August, 2018, 07:07 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Scientists off the coast of Hawaii have discovered a never-before-seen hybrid sea creature ― a cross between a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale.

Baird told BuzzFeed News that the team will head back to Kauai in August, where they will try to determine whether the female melon-headed whale seen swimming alongside the "wholphin" past year is its mother.

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

The cetacean was first spotted in August 2017, by researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective on a two-week field trip funded by the US Navy to document marine life around the Pacific Missile Range Facility ahead of a training course.

The mammal is "only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family", according to an Associated Press report.

"It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost in an email.

"That isn't the case, although there are examples where hybridisation has resulted in a new species", he said.

The melon-headed whale, which the researchers also observed hanging around during their expedition, is also relatively rare in the waters of Hawaii.

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What do you think about the dolphin and whale hybrid?

There may be similar hybrids out there, he told HuffPost.

Speaking about it, the authors wrote, "Genetic analyses of a biopsy sample obtained from the putative hybrid in comparison to a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin indicated that the individual has the genotype expected for an F1 hybrid at 11 of 14 nucleotide positions".

"I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly", Baird said. But really, it's hard to beat a melon-headed rough-toothed wholphin.

Still, some dolphin hybrids have successfully reproduced.

As the discovery is still very new, additional hybrids-though likely-have not been pinpointed yet.

It's unknown whether this new animal - which the researchers named Steno bredanensis - could produce viable offspring, but in any case, one hybrid animal does not make a new species.

In a report published this month, the researchers said it had "pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggesting it may be a hybrid".

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