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Rare White Orca Spotted off the Coast of California

Some whale watchers off the coast of California got a rare treat yesterday, when crew from the Monterey Bay Whale Watch (MBWW) spotted a white orca, known as Frosty, traveling and hunting with his or her pod.

The company wrote in a caption on Instagram that “Frosty is possibly leucistic, or may have a syndrome known as Chediak-Higashi syndrome.” The National Park System (NPS) describes leucism as the partial loss of all types of pigmentation, which causes white coloration, white patches, spots, or splotches on the skin or fur. NPS says one way leucism is discernible from albinism is the fact that leucism does not affect the pigment cells in an animal’s eyes.

Chediak-Higashi syndrome is a genetic immune disorder characterized by reduced pigment in the skin and eyes. MBWW says either condition may be behind Frosty’s unique coloration.

The orca has been spotted before, and records suggest he or she is about four years old.

Evan Brodsky with MBWW captured amazing drone footage of the white orca, which has begun to make the rounds on the internet:

The pod was observed “porpoising” (breaching) and hunting pinnipeds, including sea lions and an elephant seal, MBWW said.

Orcas, the largest members of the dolphin family, are social animals that work together to hunt. They’re intelligent apex predators that are still teaching the marine-science community a lot about Earth’s oceans.

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