Don’t call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a ’wholphin’
02 August, 2018, 09:31 | Author: Patty Aguilar
Genetic analysis showed the whale-dolphin hybrid seemed to be a first-generation mixture of the two different species which, despite the melon-headed whale's name, are both actually members of the Delphinidae family.
The male "wholphin", which is believed to be close to adult age, was spotted swimming with dolphins near the island of Kauai a year ago, according to Dr Robin Baird, the marine biologist who headed the expedition.
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.
Kimberly A Wood/Cascadia Research The hybrid is in the front, with the melon-headed whale that researchers suspect is the mother. Aww!
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 continued to explain that the "morphological appearance" of the animal promoted researchers to get a biopsy sample.
He said: "That isn't the case, although there are example where hybridisation has resulted in a new species".
This is believed to be the first hybrid between these two species.
Wholphin Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population
And while many reports have referred to the animal as a whale-dolphin hybrid, it's worth mentioning that technically, melon-headed whales are part of a scientific family of ocean dolphins calledDelphinidae.
This is the first hybrid of these two types.
Robin W Baird/Cascadia Research Rough-toothed dolphins. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an unbelievable thing to know".
"I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly", Baird said.
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.
Of the creatures detected, the scientists observed rough-toothed dolphins the most times, the longest encounters of which were of the mixed-species kind, while one other sighting was of a mixed group of rough-toothed dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.
A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up travelling with rough-toothed dolphins.
That hybrid, named Kekaimalu, still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.
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