Russian scientists in quest to find elusive white orca

Apr 23, 2012
A killer whale swims in 2007. A team of Russian scientists say they will embark on a quest next week to observe the only all-white, adult killer whale ever spotted -- a majestic and elusive bull they have named Iceberg.

A team of Russian scientists say they will embark on a quest next week to observe the only all-white, adult killer whale ever spotted -- a majestic and elusive bull they have named Iceberg.

The researchers from the universities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg first spotted the orca's towering, two-metre dorsal fin break the surface near the Commander Islands in the North Pacific in August 2010.

Living in a pod with 12 other family members, Iceberg was deemed to be at least 16 years old, given the size of his dorsal fin, said Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP).

"This is the first time we have ever seen an all-white, mature male orca," Hoyt told AFP. "It is a breathtakingly beautiful animal."

The scientists decided to hold back on releasing photographs of Iceberg until they were able to study him further, "but we have been looking for him ever since," said Hoyt.

can travel thousands of kilometres (miles).

The scientists would like to establish whether Iceberg is albino -- a that leaves animals unable to produce , a dark pigment of skin, hair and the eye's retina and iris.

Many albino animals never grow into adulthood. Their visibility is a disadvantage in the hunt for food and protection against predators.

Two other white orcas are known to live in the waters where Iceberg was spotted, east of Kamtchatka peninsula in Russia's far-east, but they are juveniles.

In 1970, a two-year-old white orca, Chimo, was captured in Canada for a dolphinarium, and was diagnosed with a type of after its death two years later.

"We want to find out a lot more about Iceberg," said Hoyt. "We would like to find out how he is able to survive as a white whale.

The FEROP team will set out for Bering Island next week as art of a project to study the social behaviour and communication of the Kamchatkan orca population, which they say is under threat from and plans to expand oil and gas exploration.

Explore further: World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Giant iceberg spotted south of Australia

Dec 09, 2009

A monster iceberg nearly twice the size of Hong Kong island has been spotted drifting towards Australia in what scientists Wednesday called a once-in-a-century event.

Rare white whale calf spotted off Australia

Sep 29, 2011

An extremely rare white humpback whale calf has been spotted near Australia's Great Barrier Reef in an event witnesses described Thursday as a "once in a lifetime experience".

Whale activists sue to free Lolita from captivity

Dec 04, 2011

(AP) -- Supporters have offered $1 million for her release. Annual demonstrations have demanded her return to the Northwest. Over the years, celebrities, schoolchildren and even a Washington state governor ...

Recommended for you

The remarkable simplicity of complexity

4 hours ago

From the fractal patterns of snowflakes to cellular lifeforms, our universe is full of complex phenomena – but how does this complexity arise?

World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

21 hours ago

The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

Study shows how chimpanzees share skills

22 hours ago

Evidence of new behaviour being adopted and transmitted socially from one individual to another within a wild chimpanzee community is publishing on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. This i ...

User comments : 0