Publicado: Vie, Agosto 03, 2018
Ciencia | Por Aurelio Ontiveros

Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no ‘wholphin’

Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no ‘wholphin’

Scientists off the coast of Hawaii have discovered a never-before-seen hybrid sea creature ― a cross between a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale.

Scientists from the Cascadia Research Collective have discovered a rare dolphin-whale hybrid off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, according to a report published last week.

Interestingly, however, scientists observed that some of the creatures they observed appeared to have morphological characteristics of both the melon-headed whale and the rough-toothed dolphin.

This is the first hybrid of these two types. "I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is". Although it had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin.

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. A document published this month by the Cascadia Research Collective details their findings, noting that the creature was found past year near the island of Kauai, where it was was swimming alongside a whale that might have been its mother.

Melon-headed whales, he explains, usually travel together in groups of around 250.

Experts don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age.

Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no ‘wholphin’
Scientists: 1st sighting of dolphin hybrid is no ‘wholphin’

Despite the name, melon-headed whales aren't actually whales - they're part of the dolphin family, and they tend to swim in large pods with hundreds of others of their kind. The biologist confirmed to HuffPost that the whale-dolphin hybrid "isn't and shouldn't be considered a new species". It was part of a two-week expedition funded by the US Navy which wanted to document the marine life surrounding Pacific Missile Range Facility when researchers photographed this unusual animal.

Scientists who found the specimen tracked numerous species during a study off the island of Kauai previous year. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal".

'Genetic analyses of a biopsy sample obtained from the putative hybrid in comparison to a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin indicated that the individual has the genotype expected for an F1 hybrid at 11 of 14 nucleotide positions, ' the authors wrote.

Animal hybrids do not by default count as new species, notes a report by ScienceAlert.

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.

The cross-species hybridization may seem freaky, but is made possible by the fact that melon-headed whales aren't actually whales.

'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an incredible thing to know". Although they are present in all three major oceans, rough-toothed dolphins are still not as widely studied as other dolphin species.

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

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