Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin in the ocean off Hawaii. But don’t call it a “wholphin,” they say.
The melon-headed whale is one of the various species that’s called a whale but is technically a dolphin.
“Calling it something like a wholphin doesn’t make any sense,” said one of the study’s authors, Robin Baird, a Hawaii research biologist with Washington state-based Cascadia Research Collective. “I think calling it a wholphin just confuses the situation more than it already is.”
In a study published last week, scientists say the animal spotted off the island of Kauai in August 2017 appears to be the first record of a hybrid involving either species. It’s also only the third confirmed instance of a wild-born hybrid between species in the Delphinidae family.
The label “wholphin” has stuck for a hybrid born in 1985 at Hawaii’s Sea Life Park of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin. The hybrid named Kekaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.