Dolphins and whales are already some of Mother Nature’s most extraordinary creatures — but, a combination of the two might be even better! Well, scientists have revealed their latest discovery: a dolphin-whale hybrid.
The dolphin-whale was first sighted last year off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, where a team of scientists from the Cascadia Research Collective first saw this rare animal. However, it was only recently that the researchers unveiled their findings in a comprehensive report.
According to their document, the scientists believe that the dolphin-whale hybrid is the result of a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin mating. However, before you start wondering about the logistics of two creatures from separate species getting cozy with each other, it is important to note that many whales technically are dolphins.
Wait, what? Let’s backtrack a little.
It turns out that all whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the cetacean species.
Now, under this cetacean umbrella, there are further distinctions. For example, great whales make up one category. But there is also another category, known as odontocetes, which includes dolphins, porpoises and toothed whales. As the name suggests, this means whales that have teeth as opposed to baleen plates, which are filters that suck plankton, krill and other food into the mouth (humpback whales, for example, have baleen plates instead of teeth).
Hence, the melon-headed whale (which scientists believe was one half of this new hybrid creation) is actually a cetacean, making it a member of the oceanic dolphin family and explaining a little better how such a new creation could come to be.
Robin Baird, who headed up the research, said that they were first alerted to the possible existence of the animal thanks to undersea instruments. Then, they were able to get DNA from the hybrid in order to test it for its origins.
“We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species,” Baird told Hawaii’s The Garden Island newspaper. “We were able to get a biopsy sample of the animal.”
The scientists hope that they can continue to collect more data on this beautiful species. With the help of technology like satellite tagging, scientists can no doubt continue to help teach us more about our incredible oceans and the myriad forms of life teeming beneath the surface.