According to an organization known as Russian Orcas, an all-white-colored killer whale has been spotted in Russian waters for the first time in five years. The organization made the announcement on their Facebook account earlier this month.
Image Credit: FEROP via Facebook
This specific whale goes by the name of Iceberg, and he’s believed to be around 22 years old, but scientists aren’t 100% sure why he’s all-white unlike other orcas in the region, which are typically black.
Scientists point out that there are several reasons behind pigmentation coloring disorders like Iceberg’s, including albinism and leucism, but there are other disorders as well, but there’s no way to know exactly what the story is behind Iceberg without having some kind of DNA sample.
Interestingly however, although Iceberg hasn’t been spotted for 5 years, there have been other white-colored orcas in the region, suggesting that it’s more common than originally thought.
In the journal Aquatic Mammals, a paper discusses the known existence of anywhere from 5-8 other white orcas that are known to swim in the region, but they’re not Iceberg.
Russian waters appear to be the world's number one area for white killer whales who may be leucistic (patchy white pigmentation) or true albinos," Russian Orcas said in a post on Facebook. "It's a dubious honor. As reported in our paper, albinism probably indicates inbreeding of small populations."
The increasing number of sighted white orcas is probably related in inbreeding of limited orca populations in the region, and such would mean that the mutated gene is being passed on more frequently. Nonetheless, they all still appear to be exhibiting great health.
It’s not necessarily a good thing, as white-colored animals are typically much easier to spot in the wild, and this makes them prime targets for predators. That being said, white-colored animals that differ from their natural colors typically don’t live as long as their normal counterparts.
Nevertheless, the pop-up of Iceberg is putting a smile on some animal-lovers’ faces, as it’s always great to know when a rare animal that's out there fending for itself in the wild is still alive and well.
Source: Russian Orcas via New Scientist