An extremely rare sighting of an all-white baby dolphin has created a buzz on social media. Footage shot by Caitlin Mackey shows three dolphins – one adult and two calves – swimming in the waters along the coast of Florida in the United States. Dolphins are frequently spotted in the waters of Florida, but one of the three dolphins seen this time had unusual colouration which some theorized could be caused by albinism – a complete loss of pigmentation which is said to happen in mammals in about one out of every 10,000 births. Caitlin Mackey spotted the pod of dolphins swimming near the sea wall at the Clearwater Basin Marina. One of the calves in the pod was an all-white baby.
In a post on her Instagram handle, Ms Mackey wrote that it was an incredible footage of “our local wildlife!”, and added, “Rare albino baby dolphin!”
“We see all kinds of dolphins, but never this one,” Ms Mackey told FOX 13. “It looked to me that they were hunting near the sea wall, as they normally do. The back caudal fin is deformed, but as you can see, it seemed to be swimming fine.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – an agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere – states that not much is known about such dolphins.
The short video posted by Ms Mackey was shared by news agencies and media houses across the US. A report in FOX13, quoting the NOAA, states that whatever is known about the genetic disorder of the dolphins comes from humans. The disorder is caused in humans due to lack of melanin, a pigment produced by skin cells. Animals affected by this disorder are called albino. The NOAA says most forms of albinism result from biological inheritance of genes passed from both parents to the child. However, it adds, this disorder can also happen if some rare forms of genes are inherited from only one parent.
Twenty-one species of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been observed with albinism so far. There have been fewer than 20 albino dolphin sightings in the Gulf of Mexico, the most famous being the sighting of ‘Pinky’, which was first spotted in 2007 near Louisiana, NOAA states. But experts couldn’t say with certainty that its skin took a pink hue due to some form of albinism.
This time, too, experts are not certain whether the baby dolphin filmed here is an albino. According to WFLA, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is working to determine whether the dolphin has albinism.
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