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Don’t call dolphin hybrid spotted off Hawaii a ‘wholphin’

Scientists are touting the first sighting of a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and a rough-toothed dolphin off Hawaii.

But they bristle at labeling the unique animal a “wholphin.” That’s because a melon-headed whale is one of the various species that’s called a whale but is technically a dolphin.

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.

While some news organizations have described the hybrid as a new species, research biologist Robin Baird says in order for that to happen other things need to occur, including more widespread hybridization.

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