A rare white orca spotted off the southeast coast of Alaska earlier this month is creating excitement for researchers and whale watchers as scientists believe there are only about five of the creatures in existence.
Stephanie Hayes, a marine biology PhD candidate with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a crew member with Alaska Sea Adventures, said only about 10 white orcas have been recorded in history.
Because there are so few, there isn’t a lot of information about them. Researchers believe white orcas are not albino, but instead the whiteness is caused instead by leucism, a condition that results in partial loss of pigmentation, which causes white, pale, or patchy coloration of skin, hair, feathers, or scales, but not eyes.
Hayes was part of a group of people that that noticed the animal while out looking for humpback whales. They came across a pod of orcas that began swimming around them.
video/photo credit Instagram worldtravelstephanie
View this post on Instagram
A white killer whale? Yes! One of only about five alive in the world! Meet Tl’uk, the two year old white killer whale/orca from the Canadian Bigg’s/Transient Killer Whale pod T046. A once in a lifetime sighting, killer whales with leucism are incredibly rare and even researchers never expect to see one in their career. Tl’uk appears to be a healthy member of his pod, and we welcome him on his first documented sighting in Alaska! #endangeredspecies #whitekillerwhale #whiteorca #luecism #protectouroceans #wildlife #alaska #orca #natgeo #bbcearth #nationalpark #whales #britishcolumbia #outdoors #rareanimals #amazingview #petersburg