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

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Baird told ABC News the hybrid animal was pictured with a single melon-headed whale both times they spotted it, which added to the mystery surrounding the unusual animal.

Melon-headed whales are technically dolphins and belong to the family Delphinidae.

Scientists from the Cascadia Research Collective observed the pair off the Hawaiian Islands and confirmed that the existence of the hybrid in August 2017.

However, he's not he first dolphin hybrid from the wild, with researchers noting he was the third known case of the Delphinidae family partnering up outside their species.

"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", Baird told The Garden Island newspaper.

The hybrid was spotted spending most of its time alongside another melon-headed whale by scientists on a two-week tagging and monitoring effort. That's because two animal species are unlikely to have the same number of chromosomes, and hybrids won't be able to reproduce if their parents are too genetically dissimilar. 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 Navy-funded research had aimed to study the effects of sonar.

To continue to study the tropical Hawaiian waters, the scientists plan to return to the coast in August where they spotted the animal to continue their research.

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




Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation.

Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one awesome animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year.

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 is a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up traveling 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.

But an animal hybrid doesn't necessarily mean a new species - not even established hybrids, such as the mule. The Wholphin is a rare find in the wild and can only be produced by the mating of a female bottle nosed dolphin and a male killer whale.

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

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