Last year, amid a series of research sponsored by the U.S. Navy, scientists came across an unusual hybrid between a whale and a dolphin. Genetic testing later confirmed the suspicion that the animal was the whale-dolphin hybrid.
Researchers were able to collect a skin and blubber sample of animal using a crossbow (yep, being a marine biologist is more badarse than you'd think) with a dart designed lightly prick its skin, going no deeper than 1.5cm. He suspects the one melon-headed whale traveling with the rough-toothed dolphin group is likely the hybrid's mother and has been hanging out with the pod for a while, creating "a greater than normal likelihood of inter-species mating".
"This is the first hybrid between two particular species", said Robin Baird, principal investigator of the project. Despite the name "whale", which constitutes one of nine families of true whales, several species of dolphin carry the word whale in their names.
The researchers were in the area to study the marine mammals and other creatures that live in the area around the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
A dolphin whale hybrid, recently discovered off the coast of Hawaii, has left scientists aghast.
They plan to return to Kaua'i next month to continue their research.
Killer whales (Orcas) are also Delphinidae or dolphins.
The hybrid had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, but it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin.
This is the first hybrid of these two types.
It is, however, a delight to be reporting on new species which are emerging, as it is often the opposite which is covered in contemporary environmental news.
However, for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridisation, Baird said. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".
Some hybrid animals, such as the mule - a hybrid of a male donkey and female horse - are mostly sterile and therefore can not propagate easily.
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.
In the photo above, the hybrid whale-dolphin swims in the foreground next to a melon-headed whale.
Many animal hybrids are possible, but few survive past the first generation. She still lives at the park, the only living example of her kind in captivity.