Researchers off the coast of Kauai spotted something weird in mid-July: a odd hybrid creature that's a mix between a rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale. One melon-headed whale was also spotted chilling with a pod of rough-toothed dolphins.
Fast forward to a year ago, when a team of scientists with the Cascadia Research Collective on an expedition near the island of Kauai spotted a odd creature - not quite a melon-headed whale, not fully a rough-toothed dolphin. Both species belong to the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphin) family, but the report notes that cross-species unions between them are unusual: It's only the third recorded example in the Delphinidae family, and the first between these two species. Marine Biologist from the Cascadia Research Collective Robin Baird said "We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species".
"Based on the genetics, the father was a rough-toothed dolphin and the mother a melon-headed whale", he told the outlet. This provided additional information on the effects which Navy sonar has on local marine life.
But scientists behind the study say this is misleading, as the melon-headed whale is technically a type of dolphin.
The hybrid has been named Steno bredanensis, and is the first of its kind to be seen anywhere.
The so-called wolphin has been confirmed by scientists after it was spotted on a research trip near Kauai island. "We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal" as reported by express.co.uk. 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.
'I always thought they were out there in the wild existing - it only makes sense, ' he said.
Two of the ocean's most beloved sea creatures morph into one fantastic animal, as a team of researchers discovered in the past year.
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. For instance, perhaps when the mother was looking for a mate, she was unable to find a suitable one among her own species. There have been other cases of wholphins in the past, most notably at Hawaii's Sea Life Park aquarium in 1985, when a female bottlenose dolphin had a calf with a male false killer whale.
"To know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome 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".