An incredibly rare albino humpback whale calf–similar to famed whale Migaloo–has been pictured swimming with its mom off the coast of Costa Rica. The white calf was swimming with its mother, but she did not have the exact same color as her baby.
Felipe Chavez, who captured the photos, said in a Facebook post that he thinks this could be a “huge discovery.”
The albino calf looks similar to Migaloo, the famed whale known for being one of the only confirmed albino humpback whales in the world. He was first spotted swimming off the coast off Byron Bay in Australia in 1991. Experts believe that Migaloo may be gone, as there have been other sightings over the years of rare white whales.
Albinism–a condition where animals appear lighter in color due to a lack of pigmentation in the skin–in whales is rare, but it has been recorded in at least 20 different cetacean species to date. This applies to , humpback and dolphins. Albinism is only likely to affect 1 in 10,000 humpback whales, research fellow at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation told Live Science.
Chavez told Newsweek that he had been making a flight from Aranjuez in Puntarenas to Nosara when he spotted the animal. We usually search for whales at the bottom of the ocean. Chavez explained that something very unusual was seen as we were driving along the coast. We initially thought it was trash, but it turned out to be whales. “As we saw it so white we thought it was belly up but then, seeing the photo in the camera, we realized that it was a completely white whale and that’s where we realized that it was something very strange. The whale swam with its mother. The whale swam with its mother. We returned to the destination, and we were able to find it once again. After a while she submerged, and we continued on our way.”
Although Chavez’s sighting is rare, it has not been the only one in recent years.
In April, a white humpback was spotted swimming with dolphins in Australia. Although it was confirmed that this whale was not Migaloo, it was suspected at the time that it came from the same population.
In August, a white southern right whale calf was also spotted swimming with its mom. The calf, which is a “brindle”, animal rather than an albino, is also known. The condition causes the animal to be a bright white color. Brindle coloration is different from albinism and extremely rare.
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