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

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The label "wholphin" was the name given to a hybrid born in 1985 at Hawaii's Sea Life Park of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin.

Before you go tie your head in knots wondering how a whale managed to successfully reproduce with a dolphin - it didn't.

The team was able to obtain a biopsy, using a crossbow equipped with a special dart that prevents deep penetration and returns a skin sample.

However, this specific case is odd since only one melon-headed whale was seen mingling with a group of rough-toothed dolphins. The unusual thing about this case, he added, was that scientists only saw one melon-headed whale (not counting the hybrid) spending time with a group of rough-toothed dolphins.

The whale-dolphin hybrid is the first recorded example of an offspring of melon-headed whales and rough-toothed dolphins, and only the third recorded sighting of a Delphinidae hybrid in the wild.


In August 2017 researchers at Cascadia Research Collective studied the waters of the Pacific before the beginning of military exercises and noticed near the Hawaiian island of Kauai cub unknown to them.

Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai'i, Mexico, and the waters off Central America. As Baird told HuffPost: "I wouldn't be surprised if there are more hybrids between the two species ― they do associate quite regularly".

News of the hybrid animal hit headlines across the globe when a paper describing the find was published in July 2018.

"This is the first hybrid between two particular species", said Robin Baird, principal investigator of the project. News of the hybrid spotted in the wild during Navy-funded research to study the effects of sonar, proves the "genetic diversity of the ocean", said Sea Life Park Curator Jeff Pawloski.

He said: "Calling it something like a wholphin doesn't make any sense".


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

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 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.

The team also suggested this little guy's mother was a whale who mated with a dolphin.


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