June 26, 2019
DNA analysis has confirmed the existence of a beluga-narwhal hybrid. The DNA was collected from a skull that has been on the roof of an Inuit subsistence hunter since the late 1980’s. The hunter, Jens Larsen, caught three animals he had never seen before. They had flippers like a beluga, a tail like a narwhal, and they were uniformly grey all over.
The skull of this mysterious creature was sent to the Greenland Fisheries Research Institute with permission, after being seen by a scientist in 1990. The Institute believed the skull showed a mix of beluga and narwhal features and coined the name ‘narluga’ to describe the creature.
Recently researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark extracted DNA from the skull and analyzed it, proving once and for all the narluga is real. The analysis showed a mixture of beluga and narwhal DNA. Since the mitochondrial DNA was narwhal, scientists can be sure the narluga’s father was beluga, and the mother was a narwhal. In fact, the reference DNA for the beluga was sequenced with support from Genome BC and other partners including Vancouver Aquarium and BC Cancer.
It is unknown if this kind of cross breeding between the species produces infertile hybrid offspring, as is often the case. Despite being dissimilar to its parents in appearance and feeding strategy, the narluga appears to have been able to survive in its own unique way.
Source: The Atlantic
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