Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

According to CBS News, researchers learned that the animal was a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin. This suggests that the hybrid was not treated as an outcast by the melon-headed whales, although it's unclear how other rough-toothed dolphins would react to it.

Fast forward to past year, when a team of scientists with the Cascadia Research Collective on an expedition near the island of Kauai spotted a unusual creature - not quite a melon-headed whale, not fully a rough-toothed dolphin.

The term was first used in 1985 at Hawaii's Sea Life Park for a hybrid between a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin.

The hybrid had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, but it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin.

Isolated incidents like this aren't generally considered a new species since hybrids often can't reproduce-like the mule, for example, which is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse-it's rare that hybrids are able to create a new species. As Baird told HuffPost: "I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly".

"We don't have any information on population trends for either species in Hawaii, so can't say whether this is the case, but we'll be looking for evidence of additional hybrids", he said. And this is the first in the history of such a hybrid.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know". "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal".

'This is the first known hybrid between these two species'. The whales swam south of Kauai and then back to the channel between Maui and Oahu, while the dolphins lingered just off the coast of Hawaii before diving into deeper waters.

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.

But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions.

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.

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