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A white Risso dolphin was spotted by a group of whale watchers off the coast of Southern California on Friday.
In a Sunday video from Dana Point’s “Dana Wharf Whale Watch,” a man at the microphone can be heard pointing out the rare animal in a pod of 30 to 40 other dolphins, of which Fox reported 35.
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In an accompanying Facebook post, the group made it clear that the Risso dolphin is “leukistic” and “not an albino”.
“Today at Dana Wharf Whale Watch were 9 fin whales, 3 humpback whales, 2 minke whales, Risso’s dolphin, including a leukist Risso, porpoise and common dolphin, as well as Henry the masked booby. On the ocean adventures with Captain Chase Moore and deckhand Georgina Stone, we did Saw Risso’s dolphin on our first three trips today, “wrote naturalist Laura Lopez.
“This included a mixed bottlenose and risso pod and a leukistic Risso dolphin. This dolphin has been seen at least three times since 2018 from San Diego to Catalina and most recently off Laguna Beach earlier this week,” she said.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines leukism as a genetic disorder that results in decreased pigmentation and is caused by a genetic mutation that inhibits melanin and other pigments.
In contrast to albinism, according to the US Navy Marine Species Monitoring blog, leukistic animals tend to “retain some pigment in their skin and often have dark, normal-colored eyes.”
According to NOAA, Risso’s dolphins – sometimes called gray dolphins – are found in “the temperate and tropical zones of all oceans” and usually prefer deep offshore waters.
The dolphins can weigh up to 1,100 pounds, are up to 13 feet long, and live in the areas of Alaska, New England, the Central Atlantic, Pacific Islands, the Southeast, and the West Coast for 35 years or more.
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The agency says Risso’s dolphins typically appear in groups of 10 to 30 animals and are occasionally associated with other dolphins and whales.
Although they are not classified as Endangered or Endangered, they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.