Rare Albino Dolphin Seen for First Time in Half a Century

Jan 05, 2015 02:03 PM EST

A rare albino dolphin, spotted in waters off the Florida coast, was seen for the first time in half a century, according to reports.

Biologists have confirmed instances of albinism among 20 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, with only 14 previous sightings of albino bottlenose dolphins. But Danielle Carter, a volunteer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), shot video of what is now number 15 on Dec. 10 in an estuary off Florida's east coast.

"We thought it was worth sharing due to their rarity but we are not able to give out an exact location for the sake of the animal's safety," FWC spokesman Brandon Basino told Florida Today. "We did not ask for a specific location for this very reason."

The two-minute video, posted to YouTube, shows the snow-white dolphin surfacing several times near a shoreline of mangroves in Brevard County's Indian River Lagoon, with the best views of the animal towards the end of the video.

Watch video

Many albino marine mammals have acquired fame for their fair complexion, including Brazil's "mythological" pink river dolphins.

According to the NOAA, albinism is passed down via recessive genes from both parents. While albino dolphins are typically associated with a pure white coloring, they are actually usually appear to be a pinkish hue, though this newest sighting is especially white. This genetic trait is also characterized by red eye coloring and often-impaired vision.

And because albinism is so rare in dolphins, researchers still aren't sure if there are any other negative health effects.

"I don't believe we have enough clinical information to indicate if they are 'healthy,'" veterinary pathologist Greg Bossart told Florida Today. "However, albinism may not be an adaptive trait in a wild animal as it makes them more prone to predation for obvious reasons."

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