A dolphin is living off the coast of Monterey Bay that is entirely white. The animal looks almost identical to a beluga whale.
The photo of the white dolphin is making its internet rounds as well as showing off to tourists. But, the animal that biologists have named Casper has been around the area for a while. In fact, Casper was first spotted off Monterey Bay’s coast in 2015.
A whale watching company owner, Nancy Black, talks about first seeing the white dolphin in 2015.
“It’s rare to see a white dolphin, but not completely out of the ordinary. You don’t see them very often. Everyone likes to see Casper because we have a name. We’re always excited to point out Casper to everybody. We just saw him yesterday. He was with a few hundred other dolphins scattered out.”
Casper, the White Dolphin, Has Been Showing off in Monterey Bay, California
Immediately, people began suspecting that Casper is an albino. Upon further inspection, this seems not to be the case. Oftentimes, albinism comes with a complete lack of pigmentation, which makes their eyes red. People believe that Casper has leucism, which is a recessive gene that causes dolphins to turn white.
Eric Austin Yee is a naturalist from Discovery Whale Watch. Recently he has been talking about the six years the white dolphin has spent around Monterey Bay. He isn’t certain, however, whether or not Casper is leucistic or albino.
“It’s still unconfirmed. With leucism, you’ll usually see more natural pigment on them, whereas with albinism, it’s a pure white animal. There are a few other dolphins in the world that are white with patches of pigment on them, so we know for sure they’re leucistic, but on Casper, we haven’t seen the patches. Casper is pretty white.”
Nonetheless, he says it is a wonder that it has lived for so long. Being a white dolphin is immediately a detriment to surviving.
“Albinism usually causes other health issues that make survival difficult (such as skin issues due to sun exposure). Also, being bright white in the ocean makes you highly visible, kind of being like a giant ‘EAT ME’ sign, you are highly visible to predators.”
Regardless of its skin condition, the white dolphin has been giving tourists something unique to look at lately. Casper is a Risso’s dolphin and is not typically seen in bays or close to shores.
Nancy Black explains that dolphins will come into Monterey Bay because of the underwater canyons. She says that there are endless opportunities for food in the bay.
“Sometimes we’ll see Casper for a couple of weeks in a large group with a thousand or more dolphins or in subgroups within the same school. Nobody else has spotted Casper outside Monterey Bay. There are not a lot of areas where dolphins can be spotted close to shore. It’s like the grand canyon of the bay.”
So, while tourists enjoy watching the magnificent white dolphin feed in Monterey Bay, take the opportunity to snag some pictures. This moment might not come around very often.