A dolphin whale hybrid, recently discovered off the coast of Hawaii, has left scientists aghast.
The result of breeding between a a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale has created an entirely new species.
First spotted back in August of last year, the mammal has been observed since and its genealogy confirmed.
Robin Baird, project head of the Cascadia Research Collective, spoke to The Garden Island about the discovery:
“We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species. We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal.” – Robin Baird.
The hybrid has been named Steno bredanensis, and is the first of its kind to be seen anywhere. Once Baird and his team were able to verify the presence of both rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale in the area, they then turned to the US Navy for some additional assistance.
From the Pacific Missile Range Facility range, the Navy were able to record acoustics of the animals in their habitat, which they were then able to pass over to Baird and his crew. This allowed them to, not only monitor the animal’s activity, but to note the frequency with which they returned to the area. This provided additional information on the effects which Navy sonar has on local marine life.
Baird is now turning to locals in a bid to acquire further sightings and habitat information.
“We’re hoping that just by talking to some tour operators and fishermen, especially folks heading across the channel to Niihau, we might get tips and encounter something like pilot whales,” Baird said, as he outlined his plans to track the species further.
Science Alert was able to add some additional information on the logistics of the breeding, just in case (like us) the mechanics of it all left you a little confused:
“Before you go tie your head in knots wondering how a whale managed to successfully reproduce with a dolphin – it didn’t. 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.
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.”
It is, however, a delight to be reporting on new species which are emerging, as it is often the opposite which is covered in contemporary environmental news.