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Scientists discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii

01 August 2018

"One of the pair of melon-headed whales seen on two occasions had pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggesting it may be a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin", the researchers wrote in their new report. Researchers believe a melon-headed whale was the mother of the hybrid.

"We don't have any information on population trends for either species in Hawaii, so can't say whether this is the case, but we'll be looking for evidence of additional hybrids", he said.

The melon-headed whale, which the researchers also observed hanging around during their expedition, is also relatively rare in the waters of Hawaii.

The cross-species hybridization may seem weird, but is made possible by the fact that melon-headed whales aren't actually whales. Like orcas, beluga whales and pilot whales, melon-headed whales are actually a species of dolphin, or delphinidae - and dolphins are a sub-family of whales to boot.

"It increases their ability to understand not only how species are using the range, but what effects Navy sonar may have on them", Baird says. After they spotted it, scientists noticed that the wholphin had two distinctive features.

The research team will return to Kauai next week, hoping to confirm their theory.

The hybrid, pictured again in the foreground, was fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin, scientists said. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal" as reported by express.co.uk.

Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one fantastic animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year. "It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost.

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.

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.

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.

Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome 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 discover rare dolphin-whale hybrid near Hawaii