An extremely rare white humpback whale was seen swimming in Cook Strait, New Zealand, just a few days ago. Researchers from the Department of Conservation say the creature was a Migaloo, an acrobatic species typically found in Australia.
The Migaloo, whose name translates to “white fella”, was not alone, but in the company of a normal black humpback, and experts from Southern Cross University say that this is not uncommon. It’s common for male Migaloo whales to escort female black humpback whales and to sing to them just like a male black humpback would.
The animals were first spotted by Ted Perano, an ex-whaler, and the first DNA sample was taken by researchers this past Sunday.
The expedition team used a dart biopsy in order to collect the sample and the next step is to compare it to DNA records that have been put together by Australian researchers working at the Southern Cross University in 2004. The Australian samples consist of sloughed skin that the experts collected from the water behind the Migaloo whales.
Nadine Bott from the Department of Conservation gave a statement stressing that the Migaloo whales are so rare that only four (4) of them have been reported across the world. They were heavily hunted in the past, but there are current efforts being made to stop the species from going into extinction.
She went on to add that the aquatic animals have a few unmistakable characteristics that helped the experts identify it – they have a distinct color, a prominent spine referred to as “razor back” and a “crooked finger” dorsal fin.
Even ex-whalers are in disbelief of state that theses animals find themselves in, with John Norton, who comes from a long line of whalers, giving a statement saying that “A couple of years ago a whale came, right down the coast. He swung around, I could see this big eye looking at me and I thought, how the hell did I shoot those years ago”.
The sighting might not be as out of place as it may seem initially as Cook Strait is a well known migratory path for normal black humpback whales. Peter Harrison, a professor over at the Southern Cross University gave a statement of his own informing that the humpback whales use it to swim away from the Antarctic, moving north to join the East Australian lot.
The white Migaloo whale is believed to have fathered two (2) white humpbacks already and researchers have reported seeing them swim along the eastern coast of Australia. The scientific community has taken to calling one of them MJ, which is short for Migaloo Junior.
Professor Harrison explains that even though there is no evidence to back up the theory yet, when the Migaloo whale successfully reproduces, chances are that the calf will end up being a white one.
Nadine Bott shared that she and her colleagues have been tracking the recovery of the white humpback whales. Ex-whalers and descendants of whalers all take turns surveying the animals.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation has labeled Migaloo the most famous white whale that we currently know of. He is over the age of 24, and experts say that the aquatic animal can live to have the lifespan of a human.
A recent study has found that humpbacks are twice as old as previously believed, which means that specimens who were thought to be 48 years old are in actuality 96 years old.
Image Source: news.com.au