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


The Wholphin is a rare find in the wild and can only be produced by the mating of a female bottle nosed dolphin and a male killer whale.

Remember being a kid and wondering what it would be like if a dolphin and a whale got together and created a dolphin-whale combo sea creature with special powers?

But they bristle at labeling the unique animal a "wholphin".

"What could have happened is that the mother, a melon-headed whale may, have become separated from her pod, begun to stay with single rough-toothed dolphins, and become used to swimming with the other species", Baird said.

In conversation with CBS News, Baird said that the team will return to the island next month, where they aim to do further testing of the surrounding areas.

Reports calling the hybrid animal a "wholphin" are false, scientists say. Once Baird and his team were able to verify the presence of both rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale in the area, they then turned to the US Navy for some additional assistance.

Manyoutlets described the creature as a "wholphin".

The melon-headed whale, which the researchers also observed hanging around during their expedition, is also relatively rare in the waters of Hawaii.

The animal, which was first spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017, appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species.

Scientists who found the specimen tracked numerous species during a study off the island of Kauai a year ago.

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The odd pair and their closeness to the other dolphins have led the researchers to speculate that the accompanying melon-headed whale is the hybrid's mother.

They were able to take a sample for a biopsy, which confirmed their suspicions.

Rough-toothed dolphins are also known to swim in tropical and warmer temperate waters. 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. "It isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species", Robin Baird, a biologist with the research group, told HuffPost.

'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said.

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

Some hybrid animals, such as the mule - a hybrid of a male donkey and female horse - are mostly sterile and therefore can not propagate easily.

Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population in one of the parental species.

Scientists do not know how old the hybrid is, but believe it is close to adult age.

It's unclear if this is true for this latest hybrid animal.