Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no ‘wholphin’

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

They belong to the Delphinidae family, otherwise known as oceanic dolphins, which also includes orcas and two species of pilot whales.

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

Marine biologists have welcomed a confirmed sighting of an ultra-rare dolphin-whale hybrid in the wild.

"I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is", he said.

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.

"It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Baird states.

"We don't have any information on population trends for either species in Hawaii, so can't say whether this is the case, but we'll be looking for evidence of additional hybrids", 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.

For an entirely new and separate species to form, two hybrid individuals would have to mate and reproduce.

Photos of the hybrid show it travelling with one companion - a melon-headed whale, which was also unusual as melon-headed whales typically travel in groups of 200-300.

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Manyoutlets described the creature as a "wholphin".

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.

The discovery, made previous year, was confirmed this week in a report released by researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective, a nonprofit which in August 2017 conducted a two-week project to photograph, tag and record audio of marine mammals. Researchers believe a melon-headed whale was the mother of the hybrid.

While Baird noted that the chances of finding the hybrid for a second time are slim, researchers will be returning to Kauai next month to further investigate the discovery.

'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, ' the authors wrote.

Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation. News of the hybrid spotted in the wild during Navy-funded research to study the effects of sonar, proves the "genetic diversity of the ocean", said Sea Life Park Curator Jeff Pawloski.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense". "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know".

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.

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

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

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