Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

Kimberly A. Wood under Cascadia Research Collective NMFS permit 20605

Kimberly A. Wood under Cascadia Research Collective NMFS permit 20605

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

From the Pacific Missile Range Facility range, the Navy were able to record acoustics of the animals in their habitat, which they were then able to pass over to Baird and his crew.

The cross-species hybridization may seem freakish, but is made possible by the fact that melon-headed whales aren't actually whales.

The animal was spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii in August 2017, as detailed in a new report from Cascadia Research Collective and first reported by local newspaper The Garden Island. Perhaps in the future, there could be more dolphin and whale hybrids, but it remains to be seen if this previously rare event will become more commonplace down the line.

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

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.

Both pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggested it may be a hybrid resulting from a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin mating, scientists explained in the new report. Later they were able to obtain a biopsy sample that proved them correct.

We all know the Tiger Lion hybrid the Liger, or the Zebra Horse hybrid: the Zorse and of course the ill-fated Human Chimpanzee hybrid; the humanzee.

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'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said. Robin Baird, a marine biologist who led the expedition, called it a "most unusual finding", and the first known hybrid between the species. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know".

"Before you go tie your head in knots wondering how a whale managed to successfully reproduce with a dolphin - it didn't".

Despite the name, melon-headed whales aren't actually whales - they're part of the dolphin family, and they tend to swim in large pods with hundreds of others of their kind.

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

Some hybrid animals, such as the mule - a hybrid of a male donkey and female horse - are mostly sterile and therefore can not propagate easily.

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

The hybrid was only traveling with one companion - a melon-headed whale.

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