Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

  • Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

Rare dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

They spotted a rare - possibly one-of-a-kind - whale-dolphin hybrid off the coast of Kaua'i while studying marine species there. Genetic analysis revealed that his father is cropnosis Dolphin (Steno bredanensis), and mother - melon-headed whale, or Dolphin (Peponocephala electra), which belongs to the cetaceans.

The animal, which was first spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017, appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species.

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.

"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", project leader Robin Baird, a biologist, explains to Garden Island. Researchers believe a melon-headed whale was the mother of the hybrid.

Regardless, it's discovery caught scientists off guard since melon-headed whales don't typically swim in the waters off of Hawaii.

To investigate their suspicions that they encountered a hybrid, scientists took a biopsy sample from the animal to analyze its genetics.

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. 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.

'This is the first known hybrid between these two species'.

The marine mammal monitoring program, funded by the US Navy, first spotted the animal in August 2017.

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

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.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an unbelievable thing to know".

The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others.

Hybrids generally occur when there's a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline.

The hybrid was only traveling with one companion - a melon-headed whale.

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

Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.