Marine biologists have discovered a new dolphin hybrid and it’s adorable.
Spotted off the coast of Hawaii, the hybrid is half rough-toothed dolphin and half melon-headed whale.
“We came across a mixed group with two species: rough-toothed dolphins, and what appeared, at first, to be two melon-headed whales,” said Robin Baird, a research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective.
“Seeing just two [melon-headed whales] mixed in with the rough-toothed dolphins was a bit surprising,” he said. “Then, on closer observation, the field team noted one of the melon-headed whales had a very unusual head. It had a gently sloping beak, but much shorter than a normal rough-toothed dolphin.”
Melon-headed whales are, surprisingly, in the dolphin family. They were mistakenly named ‘whales’ before scientists had a proper understanding of the mammals.
The researchers collected genetic tissue from the animals and discovered the animal is a hybrid of both. For marine biologists, this is an incredibly exciting find; the hybrid is the first known melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid found in the wild.