Saturday, 18 August, 2018

Don´t call it a `wholphin´ - rare hybrid spotted for…

The so-called wolphin was identified by scientists in waters near Hawaii The so-called wolphin was identified by scientists in waters near Hawaii
Derrick Tucker | 02 August, 2018, 09:30

Genetic analysis showed the whale-dolphin hybrid seemed to be a first-generation mixture of the two different species which, despite the melon-headed whale's name, are both actually members of the Delphinidae family.

This is the first confirmed hybrid between rough-toothed dolphins and melon-headed whales.

Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin off Hawaii. The family covers sea dolphins and some whales, which is why inter-species breeding is possible. 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".

In August 2017, scientists conducted a wide survey of the waters of Kauai in which they observed the whale and dolphin species residing in the area with the help of boat-based efforts and passive acoustic monitoring.

For a long time scientists kept the discovery secret. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal" as reported by express.co.uk.

Scientists are reluctant to use the term, however, and Dr Baird said the animals can not be considered their own species without more widespread hybridisation. The delay was caused, in particular, long-term studies of genetic samples, which confirmed that the animal is a hybrid of a whale and a Dolphin. Nor was it exactly a rough-toothed dolphin, which are common to the area.

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'This is the first known hybrid between these two species'. 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. "I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense", he said.

Although they are present in all three major oceans, rough-toothed dolphins are still not as widely studied as other dolphin species.

Hybrids can be the effect of a population drop in one species and an individual experiences difficulty in finding a mate.

While several examples of human-bred animal hybrids are well known and can thrive in captivity including the zorses, the product of zebra-horse mating, and beefalo, the offspring of bison-beef cattle, naturally occurring animal hybrids are often infertile and therefore evolutionary dead ends.

"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome 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".

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