They tagged a pair of the melon-headed whales that live in the region to see where they traveled, only to realize one didn't look quite like it should.
According to the scientists, the hybrid was a result of inter-species mating, and they even called it a "most unusual" find that's actually the first documented melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin hybrid.
The organization wrote in a paper on Friday that after a biopsy of a sample collected from the creature in August 2017, suspicions were confirmed: The offspring of two species never before been known to mate, despite occasionally swimming in mixed groups, well, had. Once Baird and his team were able to verify the presence of both rough-toothed dolphin and a melon-headed whale in the area, they then turned to the US Navy for some additional assistance.
However, he's not he first dolphin hybrid from the wild, with researchers noting he was the third known case of the Delphinidae family partnering up outside their species.
To continue to study the tropical Hawaiian waters, the scientists plan to return to the coast in August where they spotted the animal to continue their research.
Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai'i, Mexico, and the waters off Central America. 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.
Scientists are reluctant to use the term, however, and Dr Baird said the animals can not be considered their own species without more widespread hybridisation.
Audio recordings of the two species vocalizing were also achieved for the very first time. "And to know she has cousins out there in the ocean is an awesome thing to know".
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A whale-dolphin hybrid was discovered thanks to the efforts of scientists in Hawaii.
"We had the photos and suspected it was a hybrid from morphological characteristics intermediate between species", says marine biologist Robin Baird, lead author of a report in which the discovery is described.
The hybrid was only traveling with one companion - a melon-headed whale.
"Before you go tie your head in knots wondering how a whale managed to successfully reproduce with a dolphin - it didn't".
Hybrids generally occur when there is a decline in the population in one of the parental species.
But a hybrid can also tell us something interesting about animal interactions.
The hybrid named Keikaimalu still lives at the marine mammal park, where she helps teach children about genetics.