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California whale watchers spot dolphin with rare coloration

By
Ben Hooper

May 23 (UPI) -- A naturalist riding along on a whale watching boat in California captured photos and video of a dolphin bearing highly unusual black and white speckled coloring.

Dana Wharf Whale Watch posted a video to Facebook that was filmed by Robin Lowe, a naturalist with the American Cetacean Society-Orange County, during a Monday whale watching trip about four miles off the Dana Point headlands in Southern California.

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The video, as well as pictures snapped by Lowe, show an unusually colored dolphin dubbed "Patches" when it was first seen off the California coast in 2006.

"I was over the moon with excitement," Lowe told the Orange County Register. "As the naturalist on board, I was able to explain how rare it is to see Patches. It also afforded the opportunity to explain what 'leucisitic' means."

Patches' coloring is the result of leucism, a condition that causes animals to suffer a partial loss of pigmentation due to a reduction in melanin. The condition often results in animals developing white or pale patches on their skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticles.

Patches, believed to be a young adult, was last seen swimming southwest with a pod of 40 other bottlenose dolphins.

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