A real rarity surprised swimming in Alaskan waters. A beautiful white orca has been spotted by scientists from the University of Alaska. An event that according to experts happens less than once in a lifetime.
The beautiful animal, characterized by a particular white color, was spotted by Stephanie Hayes, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, while aboard the research ship Northern Song, operated by Captain Dennis Rogers, on August 7, 2020. just offshore from the village of Kake. Hayes spotted a pod of killer whales about a quarter of a mile away.
So the team approached to admire these splendid specimens up close. As the distance between them diminished, they had the feeling that one of the killer whales somehow glowed.
“There was a collective gasp from everyone in the bow,” Hayes said.
It was the white orca. The animal was not alone but was swimming with its family group which included 4 other specimens, characterized by the typical black and white coat. Having studied killer whales during his university work in British Columbia, Hayes knew he was witnessing a special event.
“Only 8 white orcas in the world have been recorded,” he said. “Having one in the Southeast was an incredible phenomenon.”
Captain Rogers, who frequently hosts researchers on his ship, including those who study killer whales, said it was the first white killer whale he has seen in over 45 years of navigating southeastern Alaskan waters. Since his home overlooks the ocean, Rogers was able to admire it for the second time in the following days. From his window he noticed the herd and the white killer whale positioned in between.
With a little research, Hayes and Rogers found that their white orca had been documented by researchers from British Columbia.
The animal is called Tl’uk, a word meaning “moon” in the language of the Salish peoples of the Pacific Northwest. It is a male that has not yet left his family group.
According to Hayes, the orca has a condition called leucism, defined as a “lack of coloration” in its pigmentation. Caused by a mutation in DNA, it is different from albinism, in which a creature is all white, with pink eyes.
While scientists aren’t sure what causes leucism, inbreeding is likely to result in higher mutation rates.
Here is the video showing the splendid animal:
Sources of reference: University of Alaska