Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

Baird told BuzzFeed News that the team will head back to Kauai in August, where they will try to determine whether the female melon-headed whale seen swimming alongside the "wholphin" a year ago is its mother. But don't call it a "wholphin", they say.

Scientists from the Cascadia Research Collective have discovered a rare dolphin-whale hybrid off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, according to a report published last week. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal". Here's where things get a little confusing though, because melon-headed whales are technically part of the oceanic dolphin family, AKA Delphinidae.

The researchers were in the area to study the marine mammals and other creatures that live in the area around the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

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

The hybrid, pictured again in the foreground, was fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin, scientists said.

Killer whales (Orcas) are also Delphinidae or dolphins.

After all, individual hybrid cases are not usually officially recognized as new species since many hybrids are unable to reproduce. 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.

This is the first hybrid of these two types.

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

While some news organizations have described the hybrid as a new species, research biologist Robin Baird says in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridization. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an fantastic thing to know".

The researchers also determined that the hybrid is a male and that he stayed particularly close to its melon-headed whale companion for the duration of the observation period.

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.

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.

This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name. This, the researchers believe, could be the hybrid's mother, who is now living with her new family.

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

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