Scientists have confirmed that an unusual mammal spotted swimming off the coast of Kauai is a cross between a whale and a dolphin.
The rare creature is a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin, according to researchers from Cascadia Research Collective.
It’s the first of its kind ever documented, and was seen spending most of its time alongside another melon-headed whale.
The team first came across what they believed to be a hybrid in August 2017, during a two-week tagging and monitoring effort.
Both pigmentation and morphological characteristics suggested it may be a hybrid resulting from a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin mating, scientists explained in the new report.
But, it was a biopsy that confirmed their suspicions.
‘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.
‘This is the first known hybrid between these two species.’
The researchers leading the study say this was their ‘most unusual finding,’ according to The Garden Island.
It was observed swimming with a melon-headed whale, and together, the pair covered a lot of territory.
Over the course of eight days, the researchers say they moved about 486 miles (786 kilometers) and stayed about 27 miles (44 kilometers) from the shore.
The team tracked numerous species during the study, including melon-headed whales and pantropical spotted dolphins – both of which are rarely seen off the Hawaiian islands.
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