Dolphin Whale hybrid species discovered in Hawaii

Rare whale-dolphin hybrid discovered in Hawaii, scientists say

Let's face it: Unlikely couples hold a special place in our hearts, whether Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella - or a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin that apparently enjoyed an unlikely inter-species romance a few years ago in the waters off Hawaii.

The animal was spotted off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii in August 2017, as detailed in a new report from Cascadia Research Collective and first reported by local newspaper The Garden Island.

"It's the first record of a hybrid in the wild involving either of these species", Robin Baird, a research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective, told ABC News. Researchers believe a melon-headed whale was the mother of the hybrid. It wasn't quite a melon-headed whale. With the head and body of a melon-headed whale and the steep dorsal fin of a rough-toothed dolphin, their interest was piqued.

"We don't have any information on population trends for either species in Hawaii, so can't say whether this is the case, but we'll be looking for evidence of additional hybrids", he said.

The researchers were in the area to study the marine mammals and other creatures that live in the area around the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Baird continued to explain that the "morphological appearance" of the animal promoted researchers to get a biopsy sample.

The discovery of a hybrid animal might sound surprising, but it turns out that hybridization among different species is not unheard of.

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To continue to study the tropical Hawaiian waters, the scientists plan to return to the coast in August where they spotted the animal to continue their research. "I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense", he said. There have been other cases of wholphins in the past, most notably at Hawaii's Sea Life Park aquarium in 1985, when a female bottlenose dolphin had a calf with a male false killer whale.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an wonderful thing to know".

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an unbelievable thing to know", said Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski in response to the new discovery, which he said was proof of the "genetic diversity of the ocean".

Science known cases where genetic hybrids are either completely sterile, or are reproduced with great difficulty, as is the case with the mule - a hybrid of a donkey and a Mare.

A likely scenario for how the hybrid came to be a melon-headed whale getting separated from its group and ending up travelling with rough-toothed dolphins.

Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age.

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