Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'

02 August, 2018, 22:01 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

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

Some other news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species.

However, it wasn't until a biopsy that they were able to confirm their suspicions.

This incredibly rare dolphin and whale hybrid species has been discovered near Kauai, Hawaii. Both species belong to the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphin) family, but the report notes that cross-species unions between them are unusual: It's only the third recorded example in the Delphinidae family, and the first between these two species.

In 2017, before future naval officers trained on submarines in the waters around Kauai - a place called the Pacific Missile Range Facility - the U.S. Navy hired marine researchers from the Cascadia Research Collective to study the native animals in these seas.

Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai'i, Mexico, and the waters off Central America.

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.

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

"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", researcher Robin Baird said.

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Audio recordings of the two species vocalizing were also achieved for the very first time.

News of the hybrid proves the 'genetic diversity of the ocean, ' Sea Life Park curator Jeff Pawloski said. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an fantastic thing to know". There have been other cases of wholphins in the past, most notably at Hawaii's Sea Life Park aquarium in 1985, when a female bottlenose dolphin had a calf with a male false killer whale.

A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up travelling with rough-toothed dolphins.

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

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

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

This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an unbelievable 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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