There’s a new sea creature swimming in Hawaii waters, researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective recently confirmed: a whale-dolphin hybrid.
The discovery was first made by researchers with the collective last year, though the report detailing the hybrid -- the product of a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin -- was released this week.
The hybrid was found by researchers with the Cascadia Research Collective during a two-week project in Kauai, Hawaii, in August 2017. It is believed to be the first-ever documented hybrid of its kind, Robin Baird, the project’s head researcher, told Fox News in an email.
“Hybrids among different species of whales and dolphins have been previously recorded, but this is the first case of a hybrid between these two species, and only the third confirmed case (with genetics) of a wild-born hybrid between two species in the family Delphinidae,” or oceanic dolphins, Baird said.
Baird continued to explain that the “morphological appearance” of the animal promoted researchers to get a biopsy sample. Genetic testing later confirmed the suspicion that the animal was the whale-dolphin hybrid.
The hybrid was likely fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin while it’s mother is believed to be a melon-headed whale. The latter is a rarity in Hawaii, The Garden-Island reported.
“Such hybridization, where the genetic data of one species is integrated into another, has long been suspected as a source of taxonomic uncertainty in dolphins, and this case lends support to that,” Baird added.
During the two-week project, scientists also encountered and tagged another rare sea creature, according to the report: pantropical spotted dolphins.
While Baird noted that the chances of finding the hybrid for a second time are slim, researchers will be returning to Kauai next month to further investigate the discovery.
“If we find it again, we’d like to try to get a biopsy sample of the melon-headed whale it was associated with as well as get underwater footage [and] images to better assess morphology,” Baird said.