Migaloo, one of the only white humpback whales in the world who isn't albino, has been spotted for the first time this year off the coast of Australia.
According to The Telegraph, Migaloo was photographed with a camera phone Tuesday morning off Green Cape in New South Wales. Oskar Peterson, founder of the White Whale Research Centre, confirmed the sighting, noting that the whale's location matched with Migaloo's known migratory patterns – patterns with which Migaloo's fans have grown familiar since his first sighting in 1991:
"I know from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast, the last week of June to the first week of July is that two-week window where he'll go past," [Peterson] said.
"Now's the time down there in Eden (in New South Wales), down the south coast and Illawarra to get out there over the next couple of weeks, you'll have a good chance of spotting him."
Mr Peterson said it was difficult to miss Migaloo when he goes past – but that it isn't every year he makes a public appearance.
Photos from Migaloo-sightings in 2013 and 2012 can be seen here and here. We should also point out that, while we have previously described Migaloo as an "albino" whale, researchers who have studied him say he probably isn't. As Hannah Waters reports for Smithsonian:
Albinism is a genetic disorder in which the protein tyrosinase, which helps to produce the pigment melanin, is completely absent or damaged by a variety of possible mutations. Fully albino animals and people have no melanin whatsoever; they are white or pink from head to toe, including their eyes.
[Two other white whales, Willow and Bahloo,] are not albino: they have black spots or patches on their bodies. It's more likely that they have leucism, a condition where all pigment types are lost in patches of cells.
Even though Migaloo is all white, scientists are skeptical that he is albino because he doesn't have red or pink eyes—like other humpbacks, he has brown eyes. Instead, he's considered the more conservative "hypo-pigmented," describing a generic loss of skin color. It's also possible that Migaloo is leucistic.