Dolphin-Whale Hybrid: Rare New Species Discovered off Hawaii Coast

02 August, 2018, 22:01 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Researchers in Hawaii say they have discovered a whale-dolphin hybrid, which is essentially a mule of the sea. Perhaps in the future, there could be more dolphin and whale hybrids, but it remains to be seen if this previously rare event will become more commonplace down the line.

Researchers were able to collect a skin and blubber sample of animal using a crossbow (yep, being a marine biologist is more badarse than you'd think) with a dart designed lightly prick its skin, going no deeper than 1.5cm.

The first recorded dolphin-whale hybrid was born in captivity at a SeaWorld park in Tokyo in 1981, but died before it reached its first birthday. Despite the name "whale", which constitutes one of nine families of true whales, several species of dolphin carry the word whale in their names.

The animal was spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii in August 2017, as detailed in a new report from Cascadia Research Collective and first reported by local newspaper The Garden Island.

Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai'i, Mexico, and the waters off Central America.

Baird said this is unlikely to be the start of a whole new species of dolphin, however, because male hybrids are often sterile, and because only one of its kind has been spotted so far.

Audio recordings of the two species vocalizing were also achieved for the very first time.

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'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said.

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. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know".

Four years later, Keikaimalu was born at Hawaii's Sea Life Park in Hawaii, the result of "an unplanned union" between a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The odd pair and their closeness to the other dolphins have led the researchers to speculate that the accompanying melon-headed whale is the hybrid's mother.

A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up travelling with rough-toothed dolphins.

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

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

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