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.
The rare creature is a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin, according to researchers from Cascadia Research Collective.
In a study published last week, experts said the animal first spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first time there has been a hybrid between the two species.
However, he's not he first dolphin hybrid from the wild, with researchers noting he was the third known case of the Delphinidae family partnering up outside their species.
Some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, but other things would still need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation.
The cross-species hybridization may seem freakish, but is made possible by the fact that melon-headed whales aren't actually whales.
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"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.
Kimberly A Wood/Cascadia Research The hybrid is in the front, with the melon-headed whale that researchers suspect is the mother. Aww!
"If we were lucky enough to find the pair again, we would try to get a biopsy sample of the accompanying melon-headed whale, to see whether it might be the mother of the hybrid, as well as get underwater images of the hybrid to better assess morphological differences from the parent species", said Baird.
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.
Scientists have confirmed that an unusual mammal spotted swimming off the coast of Kauai is a cross between a whale and a dolphin.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly", Baird said.
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Killer whales (Orcas) are also Delphinidae or dolphins.
Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one wonderful animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year.
The male hybrid presents an opportunity to look for others.
The hybrid was only traveling with one companion - a melon-headed whale.
Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.
This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name.
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That hybrid, named Kekaimalu, still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.