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Half whale, half dolphin . . . just call me a wolphin

31 July 2018

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. Hybrids have been known to occur in the wild between other species, but this is only the third time that a dolphin and a whale have had a confirmed offspring and the first time ever for these particular species thereof.

An animal that appears to be a hybrid of a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale was spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, in August of 2017, according to The Huffington Post.

The odd aquatic mammal was seen swimming with other dolphins near Kauai, an island in the Pacific Ocean, but marine biologists were quick to realise the animal looked different from its herd.

The good news is, what we do have is still really, really cool.

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.

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.

Baird told CBS News that scientists were able to get a biopsy sample from the hybrid to confirm its unusual parentage.

There may be similar hybrids out there, he told HuffPost. Melon-headed whales usually don't swim in these waters, so when scientists spotted the whale, they put satellite tags on the animal.

The researchers also determined that the hybrid is a male and that he stayed particularly close to its melon-headed whale companion for the duration of the observation period.

Robin W Baird/Cascadia Research Rough-toothed dolphins.

Melon-headed whales, he explains, usually travel together in groups of around 250.

Speaking about it, the authors wrote, "Genetic analyses of a biopsy sample obtained from the putative hybrid in comparison to a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin indicated that the individual has the genotype expected for an F1 hybrid at 11 of 14 nucleotide positions".

The hybrid species is pictured in this undated photo.

"Such hybridization, where the genetic data of one species is integrated into another, has always been suspected as a source of taxonomic uncertainty in dolphins, and this case lends support to that", Baird added. But researchers aren't sure yet if that's the cause in this situation.

Half whale, half dolphin . . . just call me a wolphin