Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one incredible animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year. Soon after, they were able to get DNA, which led them to the definitive conclusion that it was indeed a hybrid of the two species.
"Based on the genetics, the father was a rough-toothed dolphin and the mother a melon-headed whale", he told the outlet. It's not a pairing that's totally out of nowhere, as he explains these animals associate with each other regularly.
A new species of aquatic mammal, a hybrid of a whale and a dolphin, has been identified in waters near Hawaii.
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. But don't call it a "wholphin", they say.
Apparently, even the team members agree.
But occasionally the factors required to create a new species do fall into place.
"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.
They collected some tissue from the animal, and after returning to shore and performing genetic testing, discovered it wasn't either species, but both. However, Baird says there's no evidence that the recently spotted Steno bredanensis is doing this.
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. Both species belong to the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphin) family, but the report notes that cross-species unions between them are unusual: It's only the third recorded example in the Delphinidae family, and the first between these two species.
However, researchers soon noticed that one tagged animal that looked a little odd. Science known cases where genetic hybrids are either completely sterile, or are reproduced with great difficulty, as is the case with the mule - a hybrid of a donkey and a Mare. This is a significant milestone, particularly for the Navy.
The researchers were in the area to study the marine mammals and other creatures that live in the area around the Pacific Missile Range Facility.