Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'

Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'

Don't call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a 'wholphin'

Via Mashable, the picture posted above features a melon-headed whale in the background and the newly discovered hybrid of the rough-toothed dolphin and melon-headed whale in the foreground. Even if hybrids can reproduce, they'd likely face other challenges in their environment, like being disadvantaged by their uniquely inherited traits or competition from other species.

"I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is", he said. One melon-headed whale was also spotted chilling with a pod of rough-toothed dolphins.

"Such hybridization, where the genetic data of one species is integrated into another, has always been suspected as a source of taxonomic uncertainty in dolphins, and this case lends support to that", Baird added.

"There's no evidence to suggest it's leading toward anything like species formation".

"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", Baird told The Garden Island newspaper. 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. This provided additional information on the effects which Navy sonar has on local marine life.

Scientists who found the specimen tracked numerous species during a study off the island of Kauai a year ago. Later they were able to obtain a biopsy sample that proved them correct.

While some news organizations have described the hybrid as a new species, research biologist Robin Baird says in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridization.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense". "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".

A mule, for instance, is a hybrid between a male donkey and a female horse.

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.

Melon-headed whales, he explains, usually travel together in groups of around 250.

Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.

But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions. This, the researchers believe, could be the hybrid's mother, who is now living with her new family.

That hybrid, named Kekaimalu, still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.

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