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

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

Researchers off the coast of Kauai spotted something weird in mid-July: a unusual hybrid creature that's a mix between a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale.

"And, although rare, other dolphin hybrids are known, such as the offspring of a bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale (also delphinidae), called a wholphin, and the offspring of a beluga whale and a narwhal, called a narluga".

A new species of aquatic mammal, a hybrid of a whale and a dolphin, has been identified in waters near Hawaii.

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.

Some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, but other things would still need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation.

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Marine biologists have welcomed a confirmed sighting of an ultra-rare dolphin-whale hybrid in the wild. "I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly".

While the discovery of this hybrid's existence is certainly a great accomplishment, Huffington Post cautions that calling it an entirely new species - which many reports have been doing - may be jumping the gun.

However, it wasn't until a biopsy that they were able to confirm their suspicions. This, the researchers believe, could be the hybrid's mother, who is now living with her new family.

But occasionally the factors required to create a new species do fall into place.

"This is the first hybrid between two particular species", said Robin Baird, principal investigator of the project.

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

They collected some tissue from the animal, and after returning to shore and performing genetic testing, discovered it wasn't either species, but both.

The objective of the field research was to ascertain how cetaceans use the area - what populations are present, and how they communicate.

The dolphin-whale hybridization is especially surprising in this region, as a sighting of melon-headed whales had never before been confirmed near the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) navy base. This is because naval activities, particularly those that use sonar, can disrupt their way of life - and commonly used cetacean frequencies can interfere with sonar. The team dubbed the hybrid Steno bredanensis, which they reveal in a comprehensive report published online.

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