Earlier this month (April, 2012) scientists reported the siting of an all-white orca – or killer whale – off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Is this whale – nicknamed Iceberg – the only all-white killer whale on Earth?
Might be. But scientists are wondering whether Iceberg is the same animal as the one photographed by scientists in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in 2000 and 2008.
Whale biologist Erich Hoyt is co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project. He described the whale siting:
It was startling to see this 2-meter-high white dorsal fin shooting up among the other killer whales.
The distance between the Aleutians and Russia is nothing for whales that most likely travel between the North Pacific and Hawaii, Hoyt said. And Iceberg, like the Alaska whale, clearly is an adult traveling in a pod of about a dozen animals.
But when Iceberg’s images were compared with the images of the Alaskan whale, Hoyt said:
The easy clues just aren’t there. There is some evidence that they are the same, but other things aren’t quite right. When you look at the pictures side by side, superficially, they don’t look alike, but they were taken under radically different circumstances and many years apart.
Iceberg has been making news all week long and is clearly an internet sensation. Below you can see him swimming with another male orca, believed to be his brother.
It is unclear whether Iceberg is albino, or if he is just somehow genetically different from the rest of his pod. Hoyt and the rest of his researchers have plans to return to the Russian waters in hopes of finding this amazing creature again and gaining more insight into his white-pigmented skin.
Bottom line: In April, 2012, scientists reported the siting of an all-white orca – or killer whale – off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. They are unsure whether the animal – nicknamed Iceberg – is the same all-white orca as the one photographed by scientists in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in 2000 and 2008.