– Species: Northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) x Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)
– Parentage: unknown, possibly dam x sire
– Status in the wild: probable | Status in captivity: absent
Every once in a while southern right whale dolphins grace whale-watchers with their presence. And, swimming alongside them, is usually another species: the dusky dolphin. Duskies often go alone, but rarely do the right whale dolphins appear without their finned friends. Curiously, both species find their mirrors on the opposite hemisphere. Here swim the northern right whale dolphin (Lisso) and Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lag), which not only look similar but are just as close-knit. All that socialising down south gave us our previous hybrid. And it seems the same has happened up north.
Although never ‘publicly’ observed (let alone scientifically described) there have been sightings of apparent hybrids in the Pacific. They were described as essentially a Lisso, except for that tell-tale mini dorsal fin in black and grey. Sadly I have not seen photos myself, but I spoke to people who have. They are secondhand accounts though and differ slightly: one said the hybrid had noticeably bigger pectoral fins and snout like a Lag, while the other said it looked like a Lisso spare the dorsal fin. These descriptions were invaluable, yet granted few solid details. As such the entire illustration should be labeled an ‘educated guess’. The true appearance of this hybrid is unknown.
However, known right whale dolphin hybrids offered some clues. The dorsal fin was a give-away: the colouring borrowed from Lags, with the reduced shape and size seen in the other hybrids. Due to this one being described as “looking like a Lisso, except-” I chose a very slim body shape, less influenced by the Lag. Interesting to note is that southern Lissos are a lot sturdier than their northern counterparts, especially in the face, and it shows in the hybrids too! Most of all I debated the colour of the throat. How much influence would the Lag’s white have on the Lisso’s steady black? Neither of my sources mentioned it – but it would be easy to miss in a fleeting encounter. In the end a fellow hybrid made me opt for an entirely off-white throat, with an extra white patch for the Lisso’s chin patch. Add some light facial markings and we get something that clearly has Lag influenced beak and pectoral fins, but which could also easily be mistaken for a normal Lisso when seen in a pod – spare that dorsal fin. It’s funny, creating illustrations like this. All the choices made are logically sound, and yet there is still a good chance the actual hybrid does not look like this at all. Maybe one day another one will be seen and we can all marvel at the photographs. Until then, this is my best guess.
• REFERENCES •
– A. Janiger and T. Pusser, personal communication