Hawaii #16 - Baby wolphin
I'd like to introduce you to a cute 9 month old baby girl.
But first I should tell you about her mom's story. Her mom is Kekaimalu, whose name means "from the peaceful ocean." Kekaimalu is a 19 year old wolphin, the result of a surprise coupling between a 14-foot, 2,000-pound false killer whale and a 6- foot, 400-pound dolphin. The whales and dolphins were living together in a shared pool at Sea Life Park, and one evening (unseen by their humans), one whale and one dolphin went to Funkytown.
The humans didn’t realize what had happened until the baby was born – and they knew right away that this was no ordinary baby. Kekaimalu has developed into a unique animal, combining characteristics of both of her parents. Her size, color, and shape are right in-between her dolphin mother and whale father; she weighs about 600 pounds and is close to 10 feet long. Even her teeth show her mixed heritage: bottlenose dolphins have 88, false killer whales have 44, and Kekaimalu has 66. John Oakley, a Sea Life Park trainer, has worked with Kekaimalu since her since she was a calf, "She's one of the brightest animals I've ever worked with."
Around Christmas last year, Kekaimalu gave birth to the baby girl in this picture (the baby hasn’t been named yet). Her father is one of the dolphins in the park pool (all the whales are now gone); the park scientists can’t be sure which dolphin is the father until they complete the genetic tests. The baby is very playful but twice as large as her playmate (a “pure” baby dolphin, who, along with her mother, share the mom-and-baby pool at Sea Life Park in Oahu Hawaii.)
Mother and daughter are the only two wolphins in captivity, although there have been unproven reports of them being seen in the wild. There may be other wild dolphin or cetacean hybrids out there; for years, scientists have been listening to a unique whalesong in the Pacific that some believe to be sung by a hybrid of a blue whale and another whale species (full story).
She and her mother are Hybrids similar to ligers, tigons, and mules. Contrary to popular belief, some different species in the same genus can mate and produce fertile offspring (mules are infertile, wolphins seem to be fertile). As to the question of why animals would mate outside their own species – this may be a desirable behavior in the Darwinian sense in that it increases the genetic diversity of the populations, so it may have positive selection pressure.
To learn more about wolphins: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolphin
To learn more about hybrids - www.greenapple.com/~jorp/amzanim/crossesa.htm