Quantcast

Scientists Discover Melon-Headed Whale and Rough-Toothed Dolphin Hybrid

Animals
A rare hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin (pictured) was discovered off the coast of Kauai. NOAA

Researchers have spotted the first ever hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, CNN reported Tuesday.


Despite its name, the melon-headed whale actually belongs to the Delphinidae family, along with killer whales, false killer whales, two species of pilot whales and oceanic dolphins.

It is only the third confirmed hybrid within the Delphinidae family born in the wild, The Associated Press reported.

Another Delphinidae hybrid, a cross between a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin named Kekaimalu, was born at Hawaii's Sea Life Park in 1985.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an amazing thing to know," Sea Life Park curator Jeff Pawloski told The Associated Press.

Pawloski said the discovery was a testament to the "genetic diversity of the ocean."

Kekaimalu's birth popularized the portmanteau "wholphin," but researchers say that is not an accurate description for these dolphin hybrids.

"I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is," researcher Robin Baird, who helped write the study announcing the discovery, told The Associated Press.

The study, published last week, details the discovery of the hybrid in August 2017 as part of the marine mammal monitoring program funded by the U.S. Navy.

The research was conducted by the Washington State non-profit Cascadia Research Collective off of the Pacific Missile Range Facility near Kauai.

Researchers tagged a pair of melon-headed whales, only the second time ever that the mammals had been satellite tagged near Kauai, and noticed that one of them had the blotchy pigmentation and sloping forehead of a rough-toothed dolphin, CNN reported.

Genetic testing confirmed it was a hybrid.

Researchers speculate that the melon-headed whale travelling with the hybrid might be its mother.

Melon-headed whales normally travel in groups of 200 to 300, but these two traveled alone and socialized with rough-toothed dolphins.

Researchers hope to confirm their hypothesis when they return to the site this summer.

"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," Baird told CNN.

As exciting as the new discovery is, researchers were quick to point out that, even though hybrid animals can lead to the emergence of a new species, a single hybrid does not a new species make.

"There's no evidence to suggest it's leading toward anything like species formation," Baird told The Associated Press.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Coconut meat is the white flesh inside a coconut.

Read More Show Less
Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Taylor Jones, RD

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

Read More Show Less
Alexander Spatari / Moment / Getty Images

It seems like every day a new diet is declared the healthiest — paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, to name a few — while government agencies regularly release their own recommended dietary guidelines. But there may not be an ideal one-size-fits-all diet, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Logging shown as part of a thinning and restoration effort in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon on Oct. 22, 2014. Oregon Department of Forestry / CC BY 2.0

The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maskot / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to wonder which foods are healthiest.

Read More Show Less
Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators outside a Republican presidential debate in Detroit in 2016. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis Thursday, citing concerns about the investigation they had inherited from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less