A group of scientists have discovered the first hybrid of a whale and a dolphin. The specimen was seen near the coasts of Hawaii.
The father of the mammal was a dolphin with rough teeth and his mother was a melon-headed whale, which is actually a kind of dolphin (and belongs to the Delphinidae family).
Researchers from Cascadia Research Collective saw the animal for the first time, which they named Steno bredanensis, in 2017.
They collected a skin sample and used genetic analysis to determine its origin. The previously found dolphin hybrids include a beluga medium and the offspring of a false orca and the bottlenose dolphin.
It is not known if Steno bredanensis is a new species since it is not yet clear if it can reproduce.
The cetacean was first detected in August 2017 by researchers from the Cascadia Research Collective and documented in a two-week trip funded by the US Navy to document marine life.
“We had the photos and we suspected that it was a hybrid of intermediate morphological characteristics between species,” said marine biologist Robin Baird.
The team was able to obtain a biopsy, using a crossbow equipped with a special dart that prevents deep penetration.
This confirmed the ancestry of the animal, and the finding is really unusual because it is the first known hybrid of a whale with the head of a melon dolphin.
The melon-headed whale, which researchers also observed circling during its expedition, is also relatively rare in Hawaiian waters.
But there was also a perhaps greater anomaly. A whale with a melon head was also seen cooling with a herd of rough-toothed dolphins. This, according to the researchers, could be the mother of the hybrid, who now lives with her new family.
A good example of hybridization that leads to a new species is the Galápagos finches, where scientists recently observed that finches became a new species in only two generations.
Source: Noticieros Televisa