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

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

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.

"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.

It didn't, for example, have the rounded head of melon-headed whales, and yet its beak was shorter than those of rough-toothed dolphins.

They tagged a pair of the melon-headed whales that live in the region to see where they traveled, only to realize one didn't look quite like it should.

The team will be returning to Kauai's waters next month, when they hope to get more photos of the new hybrid whale-dolphin as well as further research on other species in the area.

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

And while many reports have referred to the animal as a whale-dolphin hybrid, it's worth mentioning that technically, melon-headed whales are part of a scientific family of ocean dolphins called Delphinidae.

The hybrid, pictured again in the foreground, was fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin, scientists said.

Researchers were able to collect a skin and blubber sample of animal using a crossbow (yep, being a marine biologist is more badarse than you'd think) with a dart designed lightly prick its skin, going no deeper than 1.5cm.

About the discovery of a new species of dolphins, scientists have not yet spoken, because it is not known whether this is a new animal to create viable offspring.

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", Sea Life park curator Jeff Pawloski said. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an unbelievable thing to know".

Some news organisations have described the melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid as a new species, but other things would still need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation.

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

The deceptive label was widely-used for a false killer whale - the third largest species of dolphin - and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin born in 1985 at Hawaii's Sea Life Park.

"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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