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

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

New Hybrid Whale-Dolphin Discovered Off Hawaii

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.

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.

The hybrid species is pictured in this undated photo.

Despite the name, melon-headed whales aren't actually whales - they're part of the dolphin family, and they tend to swim in large pods with hundreds of others of their kind.

Scientists from the Cascadia Research Collective observed the pair off the Hawaiian Islands and confirmed that the existence of the hybrid in August 2017.

The discovery was first made by researchers with the collective previous year, though the report detailing the hybrid - the product of a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin - was released this week. Later they were able to obtain a biopsy sample that proved them correct.

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The hybrid wolphin is in the foreground, while the melon-headed whale is in the back. 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. Melon-headed whales usually don't swim in these waters, so when scientists spotted the whale, they put satellite tags on the animal.

As the discovery is still very new, additional hybrids-though likely-have not been pinpointed yet. And, perhaps surprisingly, you might even be a hybrid yourself, considering scientists have identified slight traces of Neanderthal DNA in humans.

But occasionally the factors required to create a new species do fall into place.

"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", says marine biologist Robin Baird, lead author of a report in which the discovery is described.

But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions. For one thing, hybrids can occur when the paternal species goes through a population drop and "individuals have difficulty finding mates". "I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly". 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 researchers named it steno bredanensis.

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