Biologists find albino dolphin
Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian biologists have
found an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered
species that lives off the southern coast of South America.
The research group, based at Univille
university in Santa Catarina, said on Thursday that it was the first recorded
instance of an albino in the pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of
dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water. It's known in Brazil as Toninha and
in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin.
Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist
of Project Toninhas, said she first saw the white calf with pinkish fins at the
end of October. Her group photographed him in early November.
"We were surprised, shocked,"
Sartori said. "It's very small, and the colour is really different. We
didn't know what it was at first."
Sartori said the baby was with an adult,
probably its mother. The young live on their mother's milk until they are six
months old and remain dependent on the adult until they're a year old.
The species is endangered. Its dolphins have
long, thin snouts and get easily tangled in fishing nets. They can drown or die
of stress if not quickly released, Sartori said.
Since Herman Melville created the albino
whale Moby Dick in 1851, rare albino marine mammals have held a special
Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments in
the body, giving an individual very light or white skin and hair. Little is
known about the genetic predisposition in dolphins because it's so unusual.
Sartori said the rarity of the baby spotted
by her group only highlights the need to preserve the Bay of Babitonga in the
southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, where this population of endangered
"Albino animals generally have fewer
chances of survival because they have greater chances of being caught by
predators," Sartori said. "Here, in this bay, they don't have natural
predators. But there is a lot of environmental degradation from two ports,
industrial and residential sewage, tourism. This is another argument for its