Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no 'wholphin'

Here’s What You Get When a Whale and a Dolphin Mate

It was fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin but born to a melon-headed whale, two rare species seldom seen in that part of the Pacific.

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

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

A new species of aquatic mammal, a hybrid of a whale and a dolphin, has been identified in waters near Hawaii.

The new creature looked like both species, but with a few things awry.

The male "wholphin", which is believed to be close to adult age, was spotted swimming with dolphins near the island of Kauai previous year, according to Dr Robin Baird, the marine biologist who headed the expedition. Scientists are touting the first sighting of the hybrid off Hawaii. This, too was unusual, given that melon-headed whales typically travel in groups of 200-300.

Manyoutlets described the creature as a "wholphin".

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

It is also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.

Scientists who found the specimen tracked numerous species during a study off the island of Kauai past year. 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.

The team was able to obtain a biopsy, using a crossbow equipped with a special dart that prevents deep penetration and returns a skin sample. Interestingly, nearly dinagalu dolphins are not found in the area.

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

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", Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski said. "It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense".

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

Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population in one of the parental species.

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

Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.

Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation. This, the researchers believe, could be the hybrid's mother, who is now living with her new family.



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