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Rare white humpback whale swims with dolphins

AustraliaA white humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) appeared on April 21 off the coast, 500 meters from Fingal Head village in New South Wales state.

Rare white humpback whale swims with dolphins

Drones capture white humpback whales. Video: Brayden Blake

The first person to spot the great white whale was 16-year-old Brayden Blake. While surfing in the ocean, Blake fell off his board and heard a whale call in the water. After returning to the beach, Blake saw the white whale almost immediately and ran home to get the camera drone. He then filmed the animal swimming with a school of dolphins.

“In the past, I used to see humpback whales often, but this fish is not like them at all,” Blake said. “Every time it comes to the surface to breathe, it reveals its white body instead of black or dark gray like other humpback whales. The white whale disappears after about 20 minutes,” Blake said.

The individual Blake saw was very similar to the famous albino humpback Migaloo, which first appeared in Queensland, Australia in 1981. However, the new whale is smaller than Migaloo and has many gray markings while Migaloo has completely white. So some experts suspect this is the second white humpback whale from the same population.

“This is the first time I can tell I’m looking at a white whale other than a Migaloo,” said Wally Franklin, an marine ecologist at Southern Cross University in Australia. “This is extremely rare. “.

Observations of the second great white whale have led to speculation that it may have been a child of Migaloo or a close relative. This population of humpback whales migrates through Australian waters from May to November before swimming south to Antarctica to feed on krill. People often encounter Migaloo from late June to November almost every year. However, the researchers suspect the young male whale has just begun its migratory journey. That’s why it appeared offshore in April.

“The timing of the observations is very suitable for a young whale because this time is the beginning of the migration season,” Franklin said. The age of the new whale may support the theory that this is the son of Migaloo because white skin color is often hereditary. It will most likely appear again and have a clear picture before the migration season ends, helping to reveal the relationship between the two individuals based on the shape of the fins and tail.

However, not all experts believe that the white humpback whale swimming near Fingal Head is related to Migaloo. The main reason is its patchy white skin. According to Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist at Macquarie University in Australia who studies marine mammals, it is not an albino whale and the two animals are not related.

The white color of whale skin can be caused by two separate syndromes: albinism and leukoplakia. Migaloo has albinism, which means that due to heredity, she cannot make melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of her skin, hair and eyes. They can also cause animals to have red eyes and affect their eyesight. However, the new white humpback whale has numerous patches of gray skin, indicating that it has leukoplakia, a syndrome that affects the ability of individual pigment cells to produce melanin rather than suppressing all. produce pigment.

Albinism and leukocytosis are extremely rare in whales, with an incidence of 1 in 10,000 in humpback whales, according to Erich Hoyt, PhD student at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in the UK. In other groups of animals, these syndromes can significantly reduce an infected individual’s chance of survival. The only way to determine if the two animals are related is to obtain a genetic specimen such as tissue or feces from a new white whale. In 2004, researchers obtained a genetic specimen of the Migaloo, according to the Pacific Whaling Association, a Hawaii-based nonprofit. If similar specimens can be collected from the new white humpback whale, researchers will draw accurate conclusions.

An Khang (According to Live Science)

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