ALASKA In the summer of 2014, Phillip Morin didn't expect a dead whale on a beach in St. George, Alaska, to propel him on an adventure to describe a new species. But that's exactly what happened after a local teacher told him about it.
Morin, a molecular geneticist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center, initially thought the carcass was a Baird's beaked whale, which are fairly common in the area and sometimes wash in, dead, with the tide.
But a few details about the carcass, such as the colouration and position of the dorsal fin, didn't match any known description of a Baird's beaked whale.
Morin conducted research around the globe to determine what species the whale was, including examining more than 50 DNA samples from NOAA databanks. He even examined a skeleton...