Say hello to Iceberg. Spotted off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia, he is the first ever entirely white adult killer whale to be observed.
While there have been examples of white whales in the past—including one orca with a rare genetic condition that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972 when it was young—nobody has ever observed a fully-grown white orca before. Erich Hoyt, one of the scientists, explains to the BBC:
"We've seen another two white orcas in Russia but they've been young, whereas this is the first time we've seen a mature adult... It has the full two-metre-high dorsal fin of a mature male, which means it's at least 16 years old - in fact the fin is somewhat ragged, so it might be a bit older."
None of the researchers know why he is white, though. He could suffer from straight-forward albinism—or there could be some other reason for his lack of pigmentation. The researchers are currently considering taking a biopsy from Iceberg to find out more—but will only do so if there's a compelling conservation reason to interfere with him. In the meantime, Captain Ahab's got a new target. [BBC]
Image by E Lazareva/FEROP