– Species: Northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) x Common dolphin (Delphinus sp.)
– Parentage: unknown, possibly sire x dam
– Status in the wild: probable | Status in captivity: absent

On the 21st of October, 2018, a very special dolphin was spotted in Monterey Bay, California. Although part of a larger mixed pod including Risso’s, Pacific white-sided and Common dolphins, it swum most closely with Northern right whale dolphins. But unlike its companions, this animal bore a small dorsal fin two-thirds of the way down its back and was an unusual warm grey colour with lighter accents. It would never be seen again. This brief encounter, and the few photographs that were taken, are all that is known of this putative hybrid. The V-shaped dip beneath the dorsal fin, subtle criss-cross pattern and slender snout indicate a Common dolphin as the most probable other parent. Since the animal swum amongst Northern right whale dolphins, they may be the mother species but this can’t be confirmed. This is the third and final right whale dolphin hybrid currently known.

The photos only show the animal surfacing. Luckily he poked his face out over the waves, but otherwise only the upper 1/3 of the animal is visible. Which means colouration for the pectoral fins, flukes, and the largest part of the belly, flank and peduncle had to be an educated guess. It was a bit of a toss up on how Delphinus-y to make the colouration. It was clear from the photos that no white reached the V-shaped dip so I went for a rather subtle criss-cross pattern but couldn’t resist adding a nice genital stripe. It may all prove to be too distinct. Kate Cumming and Marilia Olio, who both saw this dolphin in person, were kind enough to talk to me about their sighting and give some pointers about the illustration.

– Photographs by Kate Cummings, Blue Ocean Whale Watch
– K. Cumming & M. Olio, personal communication

Northern right whale dolphin x Common dolphin