Lonely Planet Writer

A rare whale-dolphin hybrid has been discovered off the coast of Hawaii

Something rather fishy is going on in the waters off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii as scientists discover a rare whale-dolphin hybrid.

A pod of dolphins, Kealakekua Bay, South Kona. Image by Greg Elms/Lonely Planet

The finding was made by a team of scientists from Cascadia Research Collective last August when they traveled to Hawaii to monitor marine animals through a project funded by the US Navy.  During the programme, scientists spotted a rather unusual looking fellow swimming in the waters off Kauai. This particular mammal stood out because it didn’t look quite like the others, he had a completely unique design.

The breathtaking Kauai coast. Image by Shutterstock

The conspicuous creature carried the same blotchy skin pattern as the rough-toothed dolphins and sported the same dorsal cape of the melon-headed whale. However, this was the first time scientists had seen both of these physical features on the one mammal.

DNA sampling confirmed that it was the first documented hybrid of the two species, which has since been named Steno bredanensis. Despite its name, the hybrid isn’t a whale. Melon-headed whales are actually part of the larger oceanic dolphin family.

Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, an underwater marine park. Image by Alvis Upitis/Getty Images

The mammal, which is a male, was described as a “most unusual finding,” by Robin Baird – one of the study’s leading authors. He told CBS News that the hybrid was likely fathered by a rough-toothed dolphin and mothered by a melon-headed whale.

“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,” he said

Three dolphins swimming close to the surface in clear water of Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii islands. Image by ©Manakin/Getty Images

So if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, see if you can spot him. You might get lucky. Other dolphin species spotted in Hawaiian waters include pilot whales, spinner, bottle nose and spotted dolphins.If you’re looking for actual whales, the majestic humpback whales visit the warm waters of Oahu’s southern seas to breed and give birth to new calves between November and May.