Extremely rare albino dolphin spotted in Africa, possibly for the 1st time ever

A lucky couple saw the all-white bottlenose calf on their wedding day when it was swimming with about 200 other dolphins.

On their wedding day, newlyweds were treated to an extremely uncommon sight when the whale-watching boat they were on came across an albino dolphin calf, perhaps the first of its kind sighted in Africa.

On April 4 at Algoa Bay, a marine animal hotspot in South Africa's Eastern Cape region, the fortunate couple, together with their family and friends, witnessed the oddly colored cetacean. The eerie creature was initially seen by boat skipper and Raggy Charters owner Lloyd Edwards while swimming with a huge pod of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus).

Edwards said on Facebook, "All of a sudden, I noticed a bright flash in the water among a pod of maybe 200 dolphins" . "A gorgeous [albino] calf was there when I saw it again." He stated that it was the first time an albino bottlenose dolphin has been seen in Africa.

The calf is most likely a real albino and is estimated to be approximately a month old. It is about 3.3 feet (1 meters) long, although it can be difficult to judge from the photographs alone, specialists told Live Science.

Animals with albinism, a hereditary disorder, are unable to produce melanin, the pigment that gives their skin, hair, feathers, and eyes their color. Because of this, albino animals have pink eyes and a white appearance, both of which make them more sensitive to light than typical. Leucism, a disease that stops certain cells from making melanin, and albinism are frequently mistaken with one another. Leucistic animals may have areas of both white and yellow colors along with their typical coloration, or they may be entirely white. It can be difficult for a casual observer to distinguish between the two situations.

Erich Hoyt, a research fellow at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in the U.K. and author of the "Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises" (Firefly Books, 2017), told Live Science in an email that the dolphin's solid white coloring suggests that it is a true albino rather than being leucistic.

It is more difficult to determine for sure if a dolphin is an albino since you can't see the color of its eyes, according to Hoyt. He said that if the person's eyes are extremely sensitive to light, it's conceivable that they are closed. Yet according to Hoyt, the only way to be certain is through DNA testing.

Being albino may significantly lower an animal's chances of surviving, which is why albinism is still extremely uncommon in the wild and more prevalent in zoos and aquariums. Yet, it could not be the case for this person.

If the albino survives the upcoming months, "I would say there's a fair possibility this albino will survive to adulthood," Hoyt said. He said, "Albinos are at risk in most species because they stand out [to predators], but bottlenose dolphins have very few possible predators, and their color wouldn't matter to them. Potential predators include orcas and huge sharks.

Because dolphins use sound to communicate and hunt, the calf's poor vision shouldn't affect it later in life, according to Hoyt. Unless its mate also has albino genes, this individual will also probably be able to bear normal-colored calves in the future, he continued. Albinism is a recessive trait, therefore for an offspring to exhibit the characteristic, both parents must possess an albino gene.

It has already been reported to see a juvenile albino dolphin. In California's Monterey Bay in June 2017, a 3-year-old albino Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) was observed swimming with its mother. According to specialists who spoke to Live Science at the time, this person was likewise in excellent condition and had a very strong chance of surviving.