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01 August 2018, 11:14 | Justin Tyler
New Hybrid Whale-Dolphin Discovered Off Hawaii
A dolphin whale hybrid, recently discovered off the coast of Hawaii, has left scientists aghast.
While surveying whales and dolphins off the Hawaiian Islands, scientists spotted a creature they've never seen before: a peculiar hybrid between a dolphin and a small whale.
The discovery, made a year ago, 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.
Despite the fact that earlier hybrids among different species of whales and dolphins have been recorded, the baby of these two species found for the first time.
So, the bad news is, we don't have a new species of whale-or dolphin-on our hands.
The marine mammal monitoring program, funded by the US Navy, first spotted the animal in August 2017.
Kimberly A Wood/Cascadia Research The hybrid is in the front, with the melon-headed whale that researchers suspect is the mother. Aww!
In some cases, hybrids breeding with hybrids can ultimately lead to the formation of distinct new species, but there's no evidence that's happening here, according to Baird. Although it had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin.
The so-called wolphin has been confirmed by scientists after it was spotted on a research trip near Kauai island.
But, it was a biopsy that confirmed their suspicions.
Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation.
'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said. 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.
"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".
The hybrid named Keikaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.
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.
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. For one thing, hybrids can occur when the paternal species goes through a population drop and "individuals have difficulty finding mates".
Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.
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