Rare white killer whale spotted off the coast of Alaska

A rare white killer whale has been spotted.

White killer whales are extremely rare and it is believed that the spotted orca is 1 out of just 5. According to the New York Post, the name of the 2-year-old pale male is TI’uk. Whale watchers had spotted him on August 7 when he was swimming with a pair of adult orcas. The whale was reportedly photographed near Kuiu and Kupreanof Islands, west of Petersburg, Alaska. While the whale has been sighted several times in British Columbia and Washington state, this is the first time it has been spotted in Alaska.

The unusual color of this orca is caused by a condition called leucism.

The New York Post explains that “leucism is a condition that causes partial loss of pigmentation”. This is what makes the white killer whales look so different and rare. What is more, this condition is different from albinos which causes a complete loss of pigmentation and even affects the eyes. However, CBC news reports that scientists believe the white glow of the orca may be a disadvantage when hunting as it makes it easy to spot by their prey.

Stéphanie Hayes, marine biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, posted a video of the orca on Instagram.

In her post, she explained that this is a “once in a lifetime sighting” and “even researchers never expect to see one in their career”. The researchers have named this beautiful orca TI’uk which the New York Post explains is the Coast Salish word for “moon” on account of his lunar-like grey color. Moreover, Hayes has asked that anybody who spots TI’uk and can take a photograph, recording where they saw him. CBC further explains that Hayes urges people to “send the information to any local, relevant agencies so scientists can learn more about the rare animal, including basic facts about whether it stays healthy and whether its bright white colouration impedes its ability to be accepted by other pods“.

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