An elusive type of killer whale has long slipped through the fingers of scientists, but DNA samples collected from a skeleton at a New Zealand museum may shed new light on a rare and dangerous type of Orcinus orca whale.

Scientists have long believed that there may be four types of species or subspecies of killer whale that differ slightly in their behavior and appearance.

It was not until 1955, when a pod of strange-looking whales washed ashore on a New Zealand beach and a skeleton was preserved in a Wellington museum that scientists were able to study the supposed "type D" killer whale.

In a new study, DNA from the bones of the skeleton were studied and documented in the journal Polar Biology, reporting the discovery of the second oldest orca type, diverging from other killer whales approximately 390,000 years ago.

The skeleton is the only known specimen of the type D killer whale.

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