Don’t call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a ’wholphin’
02 August, 2018, 21:59 | Author: Rachel Logan
Researchers off the coast of Kauai spotted something weird in mid-July: a odd hybrid creature that's a mix between a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale.
And while many reports have referred to the animal as a whale-dolphin hybrid, it's worth mentioning that technically, melon-headed whales are part of a scientific family of ocean dolphins calledDelphinidae. 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.
In a study published last week, experts said the animal first spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first time there has been a hybrid between the two species. "It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost. Nor was it exactly a rough-toothed dolphin, which are common to the area. Soon after, they were able to get DNA, which led them to the definitive conclusion that it was indeed a hybrid of the two species.
It also isn't the first discovery of hybridization in the family - there have also been cases of bottlenose dolphin/false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) hybrids, known as Wolphins, and common/bottlenose dolphin hybrids.
They were able to take a sample for a biopsy, which confirmed their suspicions.
It is, however, a delight to be reporting on new species which are emerging, as it is often the opposite which is covered in contemporary environmental news.
"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an wonderful thing to know".
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.
Which is a technical way of saying this odd fellow didn't have look exactly like the other whales, but it also didn't look exactly like the other dolphins.
It's unknown whether this new animal - which the researchers named Steno bredanensis - could produce viable offspring, but in any case, one hybrid animal does not make a new species.
Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age. 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.
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.
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