Gibraltar Hybrid Dolphin
Photos: Extracted from Espada R, Olaya-Ponzone L, Haasova L, Martín E, García-Gómez JC (2019) | Morphological features as coloration and shape patterns of the presumed hybrid.
Gibraltar is leading the way in dolphin research with the world’s first hybrid of a wild dolphin calf – a short-beaked common and bottlenose hybrid dolphin – documented in Gibraltar waters.
Locally-based marine biologist Rocio Espada from Dolphin Adventure, who collaborates with the University of Sevilla and is a researcher aboard the Dolphin Adventure yellow catamarans, has had her latest research paper published by Plos One – one of the world’s leading scientific journals.
In 2016, a lone female bottlenose dolphin called Billie was spotted by Dolphin Adventure as a very young calf swimming with a group of common dolphins.
Dolphin Adventure explained that this was unusual: “although both species frequent the same areas, they do not mix together and they will, in fact, avoid each other. It was realised then that she was going to be very special, but little did we know how special.”
“Over the years Billie has been sighted and recorded hundreds of times among the common dolphins and appeared to have been adopted by them”, Dolphin Adventure explains. “In 2016 Billie was seen holding a new born dolphin to the surface” – which is a natural behaviour after giving birth.
Rocio, Luisa Haasova and the Dolphin Adventure team gathered behavioural data and photographic evidence over 10 months and had confirmed that Billie had given birth to the world’s first recorded and documented hybrid dolphin calf, from common and bottlenose, in the wild.
“The calf is a hybrid between a common and bottlenose dolphin; with a robust body with a length similar to the bottlenose, while its lateral striping and colouration are typical of the common dolphin, and also displays the common dolphins criss-cross pattern.”
Dolphin Adventure explains: “This puts Gibraltar firmly on the map for cetacean research and shows responsible dolphin watching platforms can be used effectively for research.”
Reach-Alcance is looking forward to keeping up with the world’s very first hybrid dolphin of this type.