Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'

Pablo Tucker
August 1, 2018

Which is a technical way of saying this odd fellow didn't have look exactly like the other whales, but it also didn't look exactly like the other dolphins.

It's the first of its kind ever documented, and was seen spending most of its time alongside another melon-headed whale.

But, it was a biopsy that confirmed their suspicions.

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.

But as Quanta Magazine explains, isolated occurrences of individual hybrids aren't typically considered new species, either because the hybrids can not reproduce or because lone hybrids are apt to just get reabsorbed into existing species by mating with an animal that's the same species as one of its parents. "It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost.

While surveying whales and dolphins off the Hawaiian Islands, scientists spotted a creature they've never seen before: a peculiar hybrid between a dolphin and a small whale.

Although many reports have called the wholphin a brand new species, in reality, this isn't the first time a whale/dolphin hybrid has been found. 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. That's because two animal species are unlikely to have the same number of chromosomes, and hybrids won't be able to reproduce if their parents are too genetically dissimilar.

"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.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense".

The deceptive label was widely-used for a false killer whale - the third largest species of dolphin - and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin born in 1985 at Hawaii's Sea Life Park.

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

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

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

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

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

Other reports by iNewsToday