New species of hybrid dolphin discovered in Hawaii

The wholphin was spotted near Hawaii. Pic Cascadia Research Collective

"Hybrids among different species of whales and dolphins have been previously recorded, but this is the first case of a hybrid between these two species, and only the third confirmed case (with genetics) of a wild-born hybrid between two species in the family Delphinidae", or oceanic dolphins, Baird told Fox News.

The male "wholphin", which is believed to be close to adult age, was spotted swimming with dolphins near the island of Kauai a year ago, according to Dr Robin Baird, the marine biologist who headed the expedition.

Scientists first discovered off the coast of Hawaii cub krupnosortnogo melon-headed whale and dolphins. 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.

While some news organizations have described the hybrid as a new species, research biologist Robin Baird says in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridization.

"Before you go tie your head in knots wondering how a whale managed to successfully reproduce with a dolphin - it didn't".

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

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It proved to be an eventful project for the team, as they were also able to spot and tag two other species that are seldom seen in the location: melon-headed whales and pantropical spotted dolphins.

But an animal hybrid doesn't necessarily mean a new species - not even established hybrids, such as the mule.

This confirmed the animal's parentage - and the finding is really unusual, not just because it's the first known rough-toothed dolphin/melon-headed whale hybrid. There's still limited information on the Hawaiian populations of the two species involved, so further studies are necessary to determine whether this played a role in the hybrid's birth. "I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly".

The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others. Both were spotted in a pod of rough-toothed 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.

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