Dolphin calf could be rarest of crossbreeds from a pilot whale

September 11, 2013

By ERINA ITO/ Staff Writer

A photographer of marine creatures has captured images of a baby cetacean that could have been the result of a rare crossbreeding of an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin and a pilot whale in the wild.

Or the youngster could just be a lost melon-headed whale calf that has been "adopted" by a pod of dolphins.

Ayano Suzuki, 34, took the photos in the sea near Mikurajima Island, located about 200 kilometers south of central Tokyo.

The young calf does not have the makings of a beak that is unique to Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins. Its head is also rounded.

Kamogawa Seaworld, an aquarium in Chiba Prefecture that is well-versed in dolphins and whales, checked the photos and said that there is a high possibility that the calf was a result of a dolphin and a whale crossbreeding.

“I have never heard of an instance in which an image was captured of a (marine) creature born as the result of the crossbreeding of different species, swimming in the wild,” said Hiroshi Katsumata, vice director of the aquarium.

However, Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, a senior staff member of the Institute of Cetacean Research, has a different opinion.

“Judging from the shape of the head and characteristics of the pectoral fins, the calf is a young melon-headed whale that has strayed from its pod. It is rare that the whale is in the pod of Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins,” Nishiwaki said.

By ERINA ITO/ Staff Writer
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A calf, foreground, swims alongside a pod of Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins. The calf has characteristics that are different from those of other dolphins, and may be the result of a rare crossbreeding between an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin and a pilot whale. (Provided by Ayano Suzuki)

A calf, foreground, swims alongside a pod of Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins. The calf has characteristics that are different from those of other dolphins, and may be the result of a rare crossbreeding between an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin and a pilot whale. (Provided by Ayano Suzuki)

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  • A calf, foreground, swims alongside a pod of Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins. The calf has characteristics that are different from those of other dolphins, and may be the result of a rare crossbreeding between an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin and a pilot whale. (Provided by Ayano Suzuki)
  • A calf, foreground, swims alongside an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin. (Provided by Ayano Suzuki)
  • An Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin nurses a calf whose characteristics may be the result of a rare crossbreeding between an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin and a pilot whale. (Provided by Ayano Suzuki)

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