DANA POINT一 Dana Wharf Whale Watching’s Ocean Adventure, captained by Chase Moore, spotted a rare white Risso’s dolphin on May 18.
The dolphin was in a mixed pod of bottlenose and other Risso’s dolphins.
The dolphin is not an albino rather leucistic, according to a Dana Wharf naturalist Laura Lopez.
Leucism is a recessive gene that gives a white color to fur, feathers, or skin of animals that would normally have a different color, while albinism is an anomaly that causes a deficiency of melanin caused by an absence or defect of the enzyme tyrosinase, according to a 2014 blog post from the Dolphin Project.
Animals with leucism are able to retain pigment and often have normal or dark-colored eyes. Risso’s dolphins hang around tropical and temperate waters and are known for their characteristic blunt-head and gray-white mottling.
The Risso’s dolphin got its name in 1812 from French anatomist Georges Cuvier who named it for naturalist Antoine Risso, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Also, according to the aquarium, there are somewhere between 11,000 and 16,000 Risso’s dolphins off the coast of California and the Pacific Northwest.
The white dolphin has reportedly been seen up and down the California coast between San Diego and Catalina, including a reported sighting in Laguna Beach days prior.
“This dolphin has been seen at least three times since 2018 from San Diego to Catalina but never seen by one of Dana Wharf’s vessels until now,” said a May 21 email from Dana Wharf Whale Watching.