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

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Let's face it: Unlikely couples hold a special place in our hearts, whether Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella - or a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin that apparently enjoyed an unlikely inter-species romance a few years ago in the waters off Hawaii. One melon-headed whale was also spotted chilling with a pod of rough-toothed dolphins.

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.

Audio recordings of the two species vocalizing were also achieved for the very first time.

"After studying the morphological characteristics of the photos, we realized that it was a hybrid of two different species", says marine biologist Robin Baird.

The hybrid wolphin is in the foreground, while the melon-headed whale is in the back.

The Navy-funded research had aimed to study the effects of sonar.

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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. And, perhaps surprisingly, you might even be a hybrid yourself, considering scientists have identified slight traces of Neanderthal DNA in humans.

In an email to Huffington Post, Baird adds that the genetics revealed the creature's father was a rough-toothed dolphin, while the mother was a melon-headed whale.

The research team will return to Kauai next week, hoping to confirm their theory. Later they were able to obtain a biopsy sample that proved them correct.

It's unknown whether this new animal - which the researchers named Steno bredanensis - could produce viable offspring, but in any case, one hybrid animal does not make a new species.

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

Science known cases where genetic hybrids are either completely sterile, or are reproduced with great difficulty, as is the case with the mule - a hybrid of a donkey and a Mare.

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

Hybrids generally occur when there's a decline in the population in one of the parental species, so scientists will be looking out for such a decline.

Scientists don't know how old it is but believe it's close to adult age. But don't call it a "wholphin", they say.

This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name.

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