In the late 1980s, an Inuit subsistence hunter named Jens Larsen killed a trio of very strange whales off the western coast of Greenland.
In 1990, it caught the attention of Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, a scientist who studies marine mammals. With Larsen’s permission, he took it to the Greenland Fisheries Research Institute in Copenhagen for study. And after comparing it to the skulls of known belugas and narwhals, he suggested that it might have been a hybrid between the two species—a narluga.
By analyzing DNA extracted from one of the creature’s teeth, a team led by Eline Lorenzen from the Natural History Museum of Denmark showed that it was a male, born to a beluga father and a narwhal mother. Most of its DNA was a half-and-half mix between the two species, but its mitochondrial DNA—a secondary set that animals inherit only from their mothers—was entirely narwhal. “A while back, we presented our findings at a conference of 150 people who are very into belugas, and you could hear a pin drop,” Lorenzen says. “None of them were familiar with hybrids between those two species.”"
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