Scientists finally see Rumored White Orca

The Associated Press

(03/07/08 01:37:34)

A white killer whale spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and their ship's crew scrambling for their cameras.The nearly mythic whale was real after all.

"I had heard about this whale but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."

The orca had been spotted once years ago in the Aleutians but had eluded researchers since, even though they had seen many of the more classic black and white orcas over the years.

Fearnbach said the white orca stood out.

"When you first looked at it, it was very white," she said today.

More observation showed that while the orca's saddle area was white, other parts of its body had some pigmentation, a subtle yellowish or brownish color, indicating it is not a true albino.

It probably is not a true albino given the subtle coloration, said John Durban, a research biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. That's probably a good thing. True albinos usually don't live long and can have health problems.

Durban said white killer whales have been spotted twice before: in 1993 in the northern Bering Sea around St. Lawrence Island and in 2001 near Adak in the central Aleutians. There also have been sightings along the Russian coast.

To read the rest of this exciting story and see a photograph please visit the website below:

 Anchorage Daily News

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