Dolphin-whale hybrid spotted near Hawaii

Жарт природи вчені виявили гібрид кита та дельфіна – новини

Robin Baird, head of the research project, told The Garden Island, a local Kauai newspaper, that it was the team's "most unusual finding".

Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin in the ocean off Hawaii.

"Based on the genetics, the father was a rough-toothed dolphin and the mother a melon-headed whale", he told the outlet.

Whales and dolphins both belong to the same taxonomic order, and are closely enough related that offspring between them can be fertile and have been recorded although they are extremely rare.

The whales swam south of Kauai and then back to the channel between Maui and Oahu, while the dolphins lingered just off the coast of Hawaii before diving into deeper waters.

While the discovery of this hybrid's existence is certainly a great accomplishment, Huffington Post cautions that calling it an entirely new species - which many reports have been doing - may be jumping the gun.

It also isn't the first discovery of hybridization in the family - there have also been cases of bottlenose dolphin/false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) hybrids, known as Wolphins, and common/bottlenose dolphin hybrids. 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.

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This is believed to be the first hybrid between these two species. Nor was it exactly a rough-toothed dolphin, which are common to the area. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".

"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.

A mule, for instance, is a hybrid between a male donkey and a female horse.

"If we were lucky enough to find the pair again, we would try to get a biopsy sample of the accompanying melon-headed whale, to see whether it might be the mother of the hybrid, as well as get underwater images of the hybrid to better assess morphological differences from the parent species", he said.

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.

"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.

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