A white Humpback whale calf, probably just a few weeks old, was spotted and photographed in the Whitsunday Islands off Australia's Queensland Coast. The calf was probably born in northern Great Barrier Reef waters and is just a couple of weeks old.
White Humpback whale calf off Queensland05/10/2011 08:54:16 White whale calf
October 2011. Quite often the Great Barrier Reef's marine environment surprises and astounds those who play and work within its watery depths. The recent sighting of a white humpback whale calf is just one of those occasions. These amazing photos were taken by Mr Wayne Fewings in the Whitsunday Islands recently.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Manager Species Conservation Dr Mark Read said sighting such a unique animal reinforces the importance of the Great Barrier Reef and how people out on the water could contribute to our understanding of this amazing ecosystem by reporting sightings such as this.
‘Probably just a few weeks old'
"Nearly all humpback whales are dark on their upper body and this colouration is caused by the skin pigments called melanins. A purely white humpback whale does not have melanin pigments in its skin. To speculate on the animals parents is difficult, but what we can say is that this calf is the offspring from two animals that were carrying the white (amelanistic) gene, resulting in this unique white calf."
The most famous Queensalnd white whale has been named Migaloo; Migaloo is a fully grown white Humback whale that was first spotted off Queensland in in 1991 and has been spotted often since, including 2011.
10-15 white humpbacks
"We were just drifting when I noticed the smaller whale in the pod was white. I couldn't believe my eyes, and I just grabbed my camera. Then the white calf approached my boat, seeming to want to check us out. I was just so amazed at seeing this animal, it made me think how truly astounding the Great Barrier Reef is. I feel very lucky to have witnessed this, it's a once in a lifetime experience."
Don't approach whales
Approach distances to whales must be adhered to. Vessels cannot approach closer than 300m to a whale calf. If a whale approaches the vessel, as in this instance, vessel operators must keep the motor out of gear and wait for the whales to move away before motoring away.
The GBRMPA's Sightings Network receives reports of unusual, extraordinary and iconic species and events which help management and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. Since 2007, the network has collected more than 5000 reports of over 10,000 creatures and events of special interest in the Great Barrier Reef.
ALBINISM, LEUCISM AND OTHER COLOUR VARIATIONS IN ANIMALS
Leucism is a very unusual condition whereby the pigmentation cells in an animal or bird fail to develop properly. This can result in unusual white patches appearing on the animal, or, more rarely, completely white creatures.
Albinism is a different condition. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that in albinism the eyes are usually pink or red, and albinism affects the entire animal, not just patches.
This occassionaly causes very excited biologists to think they have discovered a new species, when in fact leucism is the cause of the unusual markings they have seen. Click here to see our gallery of leucistic animals and birds.
The inquisitive whale calf swam towards the boat. - Photo bt Wayne Fewings