March 11th, 2016. While hybrid dolphins have been seen occasionally, it is believed to be the first time in the world one has been studied.
The animal became stranded on Broome’s Cable Beach in January, but despite the best efforts of rangers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, it could not be saved.
Senior wildlife officer Doug Cochrane said he was excited the moment he saw photos of the creature.
“The appearance of this dolphin didn’t fit the typical guidebooks and descriptions of any particular dolphins – not even of any dolphin anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“The appearance was long and its head had an appearance that wasn’t quite like those from that particular stretch of water so therefore alarm bells started straight away.”
Initial tests confirmed the dolphin died of lung worm and kidney insufficiency due to the worms.
The department said the rake marks on its body would have been caused by normal behaviour from other dolphins.
Dolphin’s paternity unknown
Mr Cochrane said tissue analysis had since revealed the dolphin’s mother to be an Australian snub fin dolphin.
But he said the tests could not determine the origins of the father.
“The father is a little bit harder to identify because you’ve got to have a fair sample lot of DNA for a lot of different species, because we know that species like bottlenose dolphin, the Australia humpback dolphin and one or two species can hybridise with the snub fin,” he said.
“You get some species that actually spend time in the same area and interact, they’ll be hunting the same areas and I guess when mating time occurs and hormones are racing, there is always the possibility somebody jumps the fence”.
Mr Cochrane said the discovery had excited the science world.
“It’s not the first time [one has been seen] but it happens very rarely,” he said.
“[It’s] the very first and only enhanced specimen that we’ve got of this particular on our coast ever.
“It’s quite exciting that we’re still seeing something new out there in the ocean that frequents our coastline.”