Extremely rare white humpback whale washed up on Australian beach

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2022-08-03 20:05:04

The unusually colored corpse was discovered by local Peter Coles on July 16 while he was kayaking through a secluded beach near Mallacoota, Victoria. The humpback whale carcass is about 10 meters long and has been confirmed to belong to an adult female. Coles told Sky News: “It’s pure white” and has a marble-like appearance. I thought it looked like a sculpture, not an actual corpse.”

Although the whale was white, experts do not consider the dead humpback whale to be an albino individual. Officials from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) went to the remote beach to assess the carcass and discovered that the whale was not entirely white. “From what they can see on the whale itself, there is evidence of dark patches of skin on the whale,” Peter Brick, DELWP’s regional agency commander for the area, told ABC News. (Albinism is an inherited condition that prevents animals from producing any of the pigments melanin, which gives color to skin, fur, and eyes.)

Instead, the whale may have suffered from leukoplakia, a genetic condition similar to albinism that affects the ability of certain cells to produce melanin and can cause patchy discoloration. hole. Wildlife officials have sent tissue samples from the whale to Museum Victoria for DNA analysis, which will help confirm the condition, according to ABC News.

Another explanation is that the strange color of this whale was formed because the outer skin of the whale had fallen off as the body decomposed. Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist at Macquarie University in Australia, told ABC News this was likely caused by sun exposure and crashing waves as dead whales float to the surface, which can reveal layers. lighter skin underneath. However, “it looks like it could very well be a white whale,” she added.

Extremely rare white humpback whale washed up on Australian beach - Photo 2.

When the dead whale was discovered, some feared it was Migaloo, an albino humpback whale that became famous in Australia after being first sighted in Queensland in 1991. However, Migaloo has not been seen for about two years, which means it may be dead. However, the size, sex and absence of albinism of this whale carcass have ruled out the possibility that it is Migaloo, offering some hope that it may still be alive.

In April, another completely immature white humpback female was spotted swimming with dolphins in New South Wales, and images show this individual is also white, not albino. However, there is no evidence that this whale is the same as the one that died on the beach.

Extremely rare white humpback whale washed up on Australian beach - Photo 3.

The exact reason why the whale died is still unknown, but it is likely that it died a few days before it washed up on the shore. Wally Franklin, a marine ecologist at Southern Cross University in Australia, told ABC News the leading cause of death is probably collisions. “We couldn’t see the upper part of the body, and if it was hit by a train, there could be scarring and damage to the upper body,” Franklin said.

However, the whale may have died from disease or parasites, Franklin added.

The DELWP chose to leave the carcass on the beach to decompose naturally, as its remote location would prevent odors or the presence of scavengers from bothering locals.

Leukopenia or hypopigmentation syndrome is a rare genetic mutation in biological pigments that results in a lack of pigment (especially melanin – melanocytes) leading to partial loss of pigment. in animals, producing hypopigmentation of the coat or skin or shell. This type of phenotype is a distinct chromatophoretic defect phenotype that results in impaired or absent pigmentation of the skin, hair, cortex, epidermis or feathers, with no change in pigmentation in the eyes or with very little or no effect. affect vision.

However, the leukocytosis does not cause total depigmentation and their eyes are normal. Leukopenia syndrome or hypopigmentation or pigment cell defects can occur in almost any animal species, including mammals, birds and reptiles, and crustaceans.

Unlike albinism, which is the inability of the body to produce pigment (usually resulting in a white color), individuals with albinism have red eyes and poor vision (due to lack of pigment that often prevents light from passing through the iris). eyes), whereas animals with leukoplakia have normal colored eyes and can see clearly. Animals whose colors are produced by different pigments may have partial leukocytosis, a condition in which one or more different pigments are missing from the skin but not all.

Reference: Livescience

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