Don´t call it a `wholphin´ - rare hybrid spotted for…

Muriel Hammond
August 2, 2018

Luckily, they were able to collect a biopsy sample of the animal suspected to be a hybrid, and genetic tests now reveal that it is a whale-dolphin hybrid indeed.

They were doing field work in the waters near Kauai when they spotted a pod of melon-headed whales and rough-toothed dolphins swimming alongside each other.

This is believed to be the first hybrid between these two species. It's also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.

The marine mammal monitoring program, funded by the US Navy, first spotted the animal in August 2017.

This incredibly rare dolphin and whale hybrid species has been discovered near Kauai, Hawaii.

They plan to return to Kaua'i next month to continue their research.

The hybrid wolphin is in the foreground, while the melon-headed whale is in the back. 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.

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

News of the hybrid proves the 'genetic diversity of the ocean, ' Sea Life Park curator Jeff Pawloski said.

'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said.

"After studying the morphological characteristics of the photos, we realized that it was a hybrid of two different species", says marine biologist Robin Baird.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know".

The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others.

Of the creatures detected, the scientists observed rough-toothed dolphins the most times, the longest encounters of which were of the mixed-species kind, while one other sighting was of a mixed group of rough-toothed dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age.

While several examples of human-bred animal hybrids are well known and can thrive in captivity including the zorses, the product of zebra-horse mating, and beefalo, the offspring of bison-beef cattle, naturally occurring animal hybrids are often infertile and therefore evolutionary dead ends.

Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an fantastic thing to know", said Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski in response to the new discovery, which he said was proof of the "genetic diversity of the ocean".

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