All-White Whale Makes A Stunning Appearance
Biologists were treated to a stunning sight on Sunday as one of the world's rarest animals - an albino humpback whale - made a magical appearance off the coast of New Zealand.
Researcher John Gibbs was aboard a survey vessel along with other members of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) when he spotted two whales cresting the water in the distance. It didn't take long before he realized that one of the massive animals was a bit different from most members of his species.
"I thought, wow that whale is white, that is amazing!" Gibbs said in a release.
DOC survey leader, Nadine Bott, says that documented cases of albinism in humpback whales are "extremely rare," noting that only four individuals of this species have been discovered with the condition. She believes that the pale-hued creature seen over the weekend was a whale named Migaloo, first spotted near Australia back in 1991. Migaloo is also believed to have since sired a pair of offspring like himself.
"Migaloo is the most famous and another white humpback whale was spotted in Norway this year," Bott said. "Migaloo is thought to have fathered two white calves which have been making appearances along Australia's eastern coast. One has been named MJ, short for Migaloo junior."
A DNA test on skin samples taken from the whale is set to determine if he is in fact Migaloo or a previously undiscovered albino humpback whale - but in either case, the all-white visitor has already left a mark on those lucky enough to greet him at sea that day.
"This is so unique," DOC marine mammal scientist Carlos Olavarria said. "I have never seen anything like this in New Zealand."