Kawili Kai, born to a female wholphin by a male dolphin, at 9 months of age in September 2005
Kawili Kai, born to a female wholphin by a male dolphin, at 9 months of age in September 2005
Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Infraorder: Cetacea
Superfamily: Delphinoidea
Family: Delphinidae
Hybrid: Tursiops truncatus × Pseudorca crassidens

A wholphin (portmanteau of whale + dolphin) is an extremely rare cetacean hybrid born from a mating of a female common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) with a male false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). The name implies a hybrid of whale and dolphin, although taxonomically, both are within the oceanic dolphin family, which is within the toothed whale parvorder. Wholphins have been born in captivity and have also been reported in the wild.[1]



The first recorded wholphin was born in a Tokyo SeaWorld in 1981; he died after 200 days.[2]

The first wholphin in the United States and the first to survive was Kekaimalu, born at Sea Life Park in Hawaii on May 15, 1985; her name means "from the peaceful ocean".[2] Kekaimalu proved fertile when she gave birth at a very young age. The calf died after a few days. In 1991, Kekaimalu gave birth again, to her daughter, Pohaikealoha. For two years, she cared for the calf, but did not nurse it; it was hand-reared by trainers. Pohaikealoha died at age 9. On December 23, 2004, Kekaimalu had her third calf, daughter Kawili Kai, sired by a male bottlenose. The calf did nurse and was very playful. Only months after birth, it was the size of a one-year-old bottlenose dolphin.[3] All three calves were three-quarters bottlenose dolphin and one-quarter false killer whale.[4] As of March 2020, Kekaimalu and Kawili Kai remain in captivity in Sea Life Park.[5]

Family tree[edit]

Tanui Hahai (false killer whale) ♂Punahele (bottlenose dolphin) ♀
bottlenose dolphin ♂Kekaimalu (wholphin) ♀bottlenose dolphin ♂
Unnamed calfPohaikealoha ♀Kawili Kai ♀


  1. ^ "Whale-dolphin hybrid has baby wholphin". NBC News. April 15, 2005.
  2. ^ a b West, Karen (May 18, 1986). "A Whale? A Dolphin? Yes, It's A Wholphin". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2013. "Born at Sea Life Park on May 15, 1985, Keikaimalu was referred to as a wholphin by Sea Life Park's training staff."
  3. ^ Sean B. Carroll (September 13, 2010). "Remarkable creatures". New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2010. The first captive wholphin, Kekaimalu, was born on May 15, 1985, to a female bottlenose dolphin named Punahele, who shared a pool with a male false killer whale named Tanui Hahai. The wholphin's size, color and shape are intermediate between the parent species. She has 66 teeth – intermediate between a bottlenose (88 teeth) and false killer whale (44 teeth)
  4. ^ "Ditching SUVs and Breeding Beefalos". E Magazine. 17 (1): 64. January–February 2006. Retrieved May 4, 2013. (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Family Attractions in Oahu – Swim with Dolphins in Hawaii". Sea Life Park Hawaii. December 24, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2020.

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