But, it was a biopsy that confirmed their suspicions.
The hybrid had a typical melon-headed whale's dorsal fin shape and dorsal cape, but it was also blotchy in pigmentation and had a sloping forehead, more reminiscent of a rough-toothed dolphin. There was one large pod, estimated to be somewhere between 200 and 300 individuals.
During the two-week project, scientists also encountered and tagged another rare sea creature, according to the report: pantropical spotted dolphins. Note that the hybrid shares some physical characteristics with members of both species, including the colorization of the whale and a snout that resembles his dolphin brethren. Hybrids have been known to occur in the wild between other species, but this is only the third time that a dolphin and a whale have had a confirmed offspring and the first time ever for these particular species thereof. There have been other cases of wholphins in the past, most notably at Hawaii's Sea Life Park aquarium in 1985, when a female bottlenose dolphin had a calf with a male false killer whale.
This latest hybrid animal is not the first to be branded with the "wholfin" name. This is because such genetic hybrids are often infertile, or reproduce only with great difficulty, meaning they can not produce viable offspring with their own kind.
Good news for UAE-based NRIs after rate hike in India
June has been the eighth straight month in which RBI has missed its medium-term target on inflation of 4 per cent. This is the first time since October 2013 that the rate has been increased in consecutive policy meetings.
However, though it's an exciting discovery, researchers point out it is not, as commonly thought, a new species.
"That isn't the case, although there are examples where hybridization has resulted in a new species", he said.
But as Quanta Magazine explains, isolated occurrences of individual hybrids aren't typically considered new species, either because the hybrids can not reproduce or because lone hybrids are apt to just get reabsorbed into existing species by mating with an animal that's the same species as one of its parents.
There may be similar hybrids out there, he told HuffPost. For instance, perhaps when the mother was looking for a mate, she was unable to find a suitable one among her own species.
They were also able to capture acoustic recordings of their vocalizations in the area, by passively monitoring them through the Pacific Missile Range Facility. This is because naval activities, particularly those that use sonar, can disrupt their way of life - and commonly used cetacean frequencies can interfere with sonar.