Researchers Off Kauai Discovered a Strange New Whale/Dolphin Hybrid

Researchers Off Kauai Discovered a Strange New Whale/Dolphin Hybrid

The hybrid was found by researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective during a two-week project in Kauai, Hawaii, in August 2017.

The rare creature is a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin, according to researchers from Cascadia Research Collective.

The objective of the field research was to ascertain how cetaceans use the area - what populations are present, and how they communicate.

"Hybrids among different species of whales and dolphins have been previously recorded, but this is the first case of a hybrid between these two species, and only the third confirmed case (with genetics) of a wild-born hybrid between two species in the family Delphinidae", or oceanic dolphins, Baird told Fox News.

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

"That isn't the case, although there are examples where hybridization has resulted in a new species", he said. However, though it's an exciting discovery, researchers point out it is not, as commonly thought, a new species.

Robin W Baird/Cascadia Research Melon-headed whales.

"It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost in an email.

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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.

What do you think about the dolphin and whale hybrid?

Let's face it: Unlikely couples hold a special place in our hearts, whether Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella - or a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin that apparently enjoyed an unlikely inter-species romance a few years ago in the waters off Hawaii. Rough-toothed dolphins, on the other hand, prefer to stay in ones or twos.

His team is heading out to Kauai soon for another field project and hoping to discover a little more about the origins of this mysterious creature.

In a report published this month, the researchers said it had "pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggesting it may be a hybrid".

The US Navy is required to monitor these species as part of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

And, although rare, other dolphin hybrids are known, such as the offspring of a bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale (also delphinidae), called a wholphin, and the offspring of a beluga whale and a narwhal, called a narluga.

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