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

The so-called wolphin was identified by scientists in waters near Hawaii

Marine Biologist from the Cascadia Research Collective Robin Baird said "We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species".

There's a new sea creature swimming in Hawaii waters, researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective recently confirmed: a whale-dolphin hybrid. There was one large pod, estimated to be somewhere between 200 and 300 individuals.

During their two-week project, scientists were able to get a biopsy sample from the creature and study its genetics.

But there was also a perhaps greater anomaly. This suggests that the hybrid was not treated as an outcast by the melon-headed whales, although it's unclear how other rough-toothed dolphins would react to it. This, the researchers believe, could be the hybrid's mother, who is now living with her new family. 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.

Which is a technical way of saying this odd fellow didn't have look exactly like the other whales, but it also didn't look exactly like the other dolphins.

This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name.

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Four years later, Keikaimalu was born at Hawaii's Sea Life Park in Hawaii, the result of "an unplanned union" between a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This hybrid is a remarkable creation, and he may even be one of a kind.

But as Quanta Magazine explains, isolated occurrences of individual hybrids aren't typically considered new species, either because the hybrids can not reproduce or because lone hybrids are apt to just get reabsorbed into existing species by mating with an animal that's the same species as one of its parents.

But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions.

The goal of the field research was to ascertain how cetaceans use the area - what populations are present, and how they communicate.

Hybrids generally occur when there's a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline. This is because naval activities, particularly those that use sonar, can disrupt their way of life - and commonly used cetacean frequencies can interfere with sonar. The team dubbed the hybrid Steno bredanensis, which they reveal in a comprehensive report published online.

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