Rare White Killer Whale Spotted For First Time In Wild

Scientists have made what they believe to be the first sighting of an adult white orca, or killer whale. The adult male, which they have nicknamed Iceberg, was spotted off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia.

White whales of various species are occasionally seen; but the only known white orcas have been young, including one with a rare genetic condition that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972.

The sightings were made during a research cruise off Kamchatka by a group of Russian scientists and students, co-led by Erich Hoyt, the long-time orca scientist, conservationist and author who is now a senior research fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).


The cause of his unusual pigmentation is not known. The captive white orca, Chima, suffered from Chediak-Higashi syndrome, a genetic condition that causes partial albinism as well as a number of medical complications. It is possible that an attempt may be made to take a biopsy from Iceberg; but with researchers reluctant to do so unless there is a compelling conservation reason, they are hoping instead for closer observations including a detection of eye colour.

The project Dr Hoyt co-leads, the Far East Russia Orca Project, has pioneered visual and acoustic monitoring in the inhospitable Kamchatka seas, and has produced a number of papers on the communication of killer whales. This may lead to improved understanding of the animals’ complex social structure, which includes matrilineal family clans, pods consisting of several families, and much larger “super-pods”.

Should scientists take white killer whales captive or should they let them stay in the wild? Tell us what you think!

Source: BBC News

Image: Focusing On Wildlife

Doctors Talk About the Blue-Skinned People of Kentucky

Benjamin “Benjy” Stacy so frightened maternity doctors with the color of his skin — “as Blue as Lake Louise” — that he was rushed just hours after his birth in 1975 to University of Kentucky Medical Center.

In an unusual story that involves both genetics and geography, an entire family from isolated Appalachia was tinged blue. Their ancestral line began six generations earlier with a French orphan, Martin Fugate, who settled in Eastern Kentucky. Doctors don’t see much of the rare blood disorder today, because mountain people have dispersed and the family gene pool is much more diverse. But the Fugates’ story still offers a window into a medical mystery that was solved through modern genetics and the sleuth-like energy of Dr. Madison Cawein III, a hematologist at the University of Kentucky’s Lexington Medical Clinic.


The most detailed account, “Blue People of Troublesome Creek,” was published in 1982 by the University of Indiana’s Cathy Trost, who described Benjy’s skin as “almost purple.” The Fugate progeny had a genetic condition called methemoglobinemia, which was passed down through a recessive gene and blossomed through intermarriage.

Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which an abnormal amount of methemoglobin — a form of hemoglobin — is produced, according to the National Institutes for Health. In methemoglobinemia, the hemoglobin is unable to carry oxygen. Patients’ lips are purple, the skin looks blue and the blood is “chocolate colored” because it is not oxygenated, according to Tefferi.

ABCNews.com was unable to determine if Benjamin Stacy is still alive — he would be 37 today. Trost writes that he eventually lost the blue tint to his skin, but as a child his lips and fingernails still got blue when he was angry or cold.

Source: Yahoo News

Image: Nclark