Featured Image Credit: Gina Thomas/Princess Monterey Whale Watching via Facebook
It’s no white whale like the one featured in Moby Dick, but it’s similar— in a pigmentation kind of way. The lucky folks aboard Princess Monterey Whale Watching service were thrilled to see an amazing juvenile albino dolphin looking happy and healthy.
The dolphin at first could easily be mistaken and has been questioned whether it may be a “leucistic” individual (meaning only a partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, unlike full loss like a true albino might have) because of the yellow splotches all over its body. But it’s now believed that the coloration is due to “diatoms”, or a planktonic algae, growing on its skin.
To further the belief that this Risso’s is a true albino, Kate Cummings of Blue Ocean Whale Watch managed to do some “sea”riously awesome detective work (by comparing the mother’s dorsal in recent photos against ones with a baby albino also spotted in Monterey Bay) to find out that this juvenile dolphin is actually one that was last seen two years ago.
Although the eyes aren’t quite as visible in the newer pictures, the confirmation that this is the same dolphin as the one that was spotted in 2015 means that it is a true albino, due to the pinkish color of the eyes— rather than blue, which would indicate a leucistic coloration.
Risso’s dolphins are typically a dark gray color as a calf, and can be anywhere from blueish gray, grayish brown, or pale white as adults. They also have many scars covering their bodies, most likely from scuffles with the deep sea squid that they prey on.
A creature as unique as this is such an amazing sight, and it becomes even more amazing when you consider that albinism is estimated to be in about “one of every 10,000 births.” While Risso’s dolphins are at a ranking of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, meaning that there are plenty of others to spot, we’re agreeing with the Blue Ocean Whale Watch when they say: “Hoping we don’t have to wait years to see it again!”