Dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

02 August, 2018, 21:59 | Author: Donnie King
  • Melon-headed whales swimming in tropical waters

"One of the pair of melon-headed whales seen on two occasions had pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggesting it may be a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin", the researchers wrote in their new report.

Labelling the newly discovered hybrid a "wholphin" may mean people wrongly assume it is a cross between two very different animals, scientists said.

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.

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 previous year is indeed the product of mating between a dolphin and a whale.

However, he's not he first dolphin hybrid from the wild, with researchers noting he was the third known case of the Delphinidae family partnering up outside their species.

"It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost in an email. But as Quanta Magazine explains, isolated occurrences of individual hybrids aren't typically considered new species, either because the hybrids can not reproduce or because lone hybrids are apt to just get reabsorbed into existing species by mating with an animal that's the same species as one of its parents. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal" as reported by express.co.uk.




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. The whales swam south of Kauai and then back to the channel between Maui and Oahu, while the dolphins lingered just off the coast of Hawaii before diving into deeper waters. This is because such genetic hybrids are often infertile, or reproduce only with great difficulty, meaning they can not produce viable offspring with their own kind.

In conversation with CBS News, Baird said that the team will return to the island next month, where they aim to do further testing of the surrounding areas.

It's unclear if this is true for this latest hybrid animal.

Researchers photographed the animal during their field work. This is because naval activities, particularly those that use sonar, can disrupt their way of life - and commonly used cetacean frequencies can interfere with sonar. It's been dubbed a "wholphin", although its technical name is Steno bredanensis.

You can find the team's report online here.

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