HomeOutdoorsNews‘Ghost orca’ calf spotted among killer whale pod

‘Ghost orca’ calf spotted among killer whale pod

by Caitlin Berard
Killer Whale Pod Swimming Near Shore
(Photo by Reuben Krabbe/ Ascent Xmedia via Getty Images)

Killer whales are among the most recognizable species on Earth. Purely from memory, everyone can clearly picture a majestic pod of black and white killer whales with ease. But did you know there are white orcas as well? It’s extremely rare, but once in a blue moon, it does happen.

One such “ghost orca” was recently spotted among a killer whale pod off the coast of California. Dubbed “Frosty” by dedicated whale enthusiasts, the 3-year-old orca calf wowed onlookers when he swam near Newport Harbour with a pod of 6 other killer whales.

Frosty is such an elusive sight that 20 whale watchers loaded into three boats and sailed 60 miles to locate the pod on just a few hours’ notice. Their efforts were rewarded when they came upon the famous white calf in a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

“The ghost orca returns!” Delany Trowbridge, Newport Coastal Adventure’s captain, wrote in a subsequent Facebook post.

Frosty was first spotted back in September 2019, again off the coast of California. At the time, his bizarre appearance caused major confusion – what could cause such discoloration?

The killer whale calf seemed just as healthy as the others in his pod, but his light skin was undeniably unusual.

What Makes Frosty the Killer Whale White?

It’s possible that his coloration is the result of a rare genetic condition, it could also be some sort of disease. Whatever the root cause, scientists know for sure Frosty has leucism, an extremely rare condition in orca.

Unlike albinism, leucism only causes partial pigment loss. Though Frosty is mostly white, he still has some faded black patches on his face and fins. Additionally, albinism causes pink eyes in most cases, while the eyes of leucistic individuals remain dark as usual.

Though his unusual coloring doesn’t seem to be affecting his health, it’s possible that the killer whale calf is more sensitive to the sun than the others in his pod.

Thankfully for Frosty, orcas are the kings of the sea and have no natural predators. Therefore, his coloring won’t put him at increased risk in the wild, as it would with other species. That said, it does attract a great deal of unwanted human attention, which can cause stress and unusual behavior.

Despite any possible disadvantages Frosty might face, it’s clear that he’s accepted with open fins, just like any other calf. The pod doesn’t even seem to register that the juvenile killer whale is irregular in appearance.

“White orcas would seem not to be outcasts as some people might think. They are completely accepted in their pods,” Danny Groves, head of communications at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, told Newsweek.