Rare hybrid dolphins spotted 'for first time in UK waters' off coast of Cornwall

It is thought to be the first recorded sighting of a hybrid dolphin in UK waters. Credit: Leeanne Sullivan/AK Wildlife Cruises

Two rare hybrid dolphins have been pictured in UK waters for what is believed to be the first time.

The animals, which are a cross between a common dolphin and a striped dolphin, were spotted near Falmouth Bay, swimming with a pod of common dolphins.

The first hybrid dolphin was spotted by crew members and tourists on board a tour boat in Falmouth operated by AK Wildlife Cruises on Wednesday 23 July.

After noticing some unusual features, the crew decided to report the sighting to the Sea Watch Foundation, who confirmed that the animal was a hybrid.

According to the Sea Watch Foundation, hybrid dolphins have distinct black and white stripes like a striped dolphin, but also an hourglass pattern on their underside which is a distinctive feature of a common dolphin.

They believe it is the first time that a hybrid dolphin has been reported in this area, making it a "rare and important sighting".

Since then, another hybrid dolphin has been spotted and documented off the coast of Falmouth, making it the second sighting in less than a month.

Dolphins swimming ahead of the boat off the coast of Falmouth Credit: Leeanne Sullivan/AK Wildlife Cruises

Leeanne Sullivan, a volunteer crew member at AK Wildlife Cruises, was on board when the group spotted the first dolphin.

Describing the moment she realised the dolphin could be a hybrid, she said: "I really wasn't expecting it. It wasn't on my radar.

"While our captain thinks he's been seeing hybrid dolphins for a while now, so far nobody's been able to film them or document them. So to be the first to do it is incredibly exciting. I still can't believe it!"

The crew also think there is a chance that the first hybrid dolphin they spotted might be pregnant.

Leanne added: "On further looking at the photo, we think we may be able to see a distended stomach on the hybrid dolphin which could suggest it is pregnant, which would be huge news."

The Sea Watch Foundation believe the sighting is a reminder of the dynamic nature of cetacean populations, and believes that the sightings will help to protect these animals.

A spokesperson for the foundation said: "By raising awareness of the threats they face and encouraging people to report sightings, we can work together to ensure that these amazing creatures continue to thrive."