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Rare albino dolphin spotted off Florida's east coast

Biologists have confirmed instances of albinism among 20 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises.

By Brooks Hays

BREVARD, Fla., Jan. 5 (UPI) -- There have previously been only 14 verified sightings of albino bottlenose dolphins. But Danielle Carter, a state wildlife volunteer, may have captured a 15th on video. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted the video clip to YouTube, but declined to disclose the location of the rare specimen.

"We thought it was worth sharing due to their rarity but we are not able to give out an exact location for the sake of the animal's safety," FWS spokesman Brandon Basino told Florida Today via email. "We did not ask for a specific location for this very reason."

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But Carter told the newspaper that she spotted the albino dolphin swimming among the mangroves in Brevard County's Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast.

Biologists have confirmed instances of albinism among 20 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, including sperm, killer and humpback whales. Many albino marine mammals have acquired fame for their fair complexion. Pinky is an albino bottlenose dolphin regularly spotted in a Louisiana lake.

Albinism is passed down via recessive genes from both parents. While albino dolphins typically appear to be a pinkish hue, the newest specimen is especially white. Albinism can sometimes result in impaired eyesight.

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Because it's so rare in dolphins, it's not clear whether the condition results in any other negative health consequences.

"I don't believe we have enough clinical information to indicate if they are 'healthy,'" veterinary pathologist Greg Bossart told Florida Today. "However, albinism may not be an adaptive trait in a wild animal as it makes them more prone to predation for obvious reasons."

The condition certainly didn't turn out too well for a pair of massive catfish, who were caught earlier this year -- the largest on record.

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