Rare All-White Killer Whale ‘Frosty’ Amazes Marine Biologists in Monterey Bay

Encountering a rare and unique creature can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Such a remarkable sighting in Monterey Bay has left marine biologists and wildlife enthusiasts astounded.

A distinctive all-white killer whale, nicknamed “Frosty,” was spotted in the company of its fellow orcas during a hunting expedition, KSBW reports. After video was posted online, this extraordinary occurrence has since captivated the attention of the public and scientists alike.

A rare genetic condition known as leucism can lead to an all-white killer whale.
Photo: YouTube / KSBW Action News 8
A rare genetic condition known as leucism can lead to an all-white killer whale.

Who is Frosty?

Frosty, a three to four-year-old white killer whale, was initially sighted as a calf in 2019, according to the SF Chronicle. Unlike its companions, Frosty’s pure white appearance sets it apart dramatically, almost resembling a white dolphin amidst the group of black and white orcas.

The orca’s head is light black or gray, a characteristic that has led scientists to consider leucism, a partial lack of pigmentation, as the potential cause of its unique coloration. As biologists determined, Frosty is not an albino.

“There are multiple reasons such patterns occur but genetics is a large factor,” Luke Rendell, a biology lecturer at the University of St Andrews’ sea mammal research unit, told Newsweek. “Albinism is an almost complete lack of pigment … There is also leucism, which is what affects Frosty, a partial pigment loss through a development glitch in skin cells. Leucism can therefore have developmental as well as genetic causes.”

Leucism results in a partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, making an animal appear pale.
Photo: YouTube / KSBW Action News 8
Leucism results in a partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, making an animal appear pale.

A Member of CA216

Frosty belongs to the California group known as CA216, part of the transient or Bigg’s killer whale species, the SF Chronicle reports. Bigg’s killer whales are common in Monterey Bay, especially during late spring, and they gained significant attention earlier for their dramatic videos hunting sea lions and baby gray whales along the California coast.

Frosty’s journey has taken it from the San Diego area to off the coast of British Columbia, encompassing the northern and southernmost territories of the orcas, reports the Monterey Herald.

Frosty's white appearance is attributed to leucism or possibly Chediak-Higashi syndrome.
Photo: YouTube / KSBW Action News 8
Frosty’s white appearance is attributed to leucism or possibly Chediak-Higashi syndrome.

A Hope for Frosty’s Future

While Frosty’s unique appearance is a wonder to behold, there is concern for its well-being. In the 1970s, another white killer whale calf with Chediak-Higashi syndrome named Chimo was captured from the wild and brought to an animal park near Victoria, British Columbia, according to Live Science. Unfortunately, Chimo survived only two years in captivity, dying at around the same age Frosty is now. Scientists and conservationists are hopeful that Frosty will thrive in its natural habitat and not meet the same fate.

A Welcoming Pod

Contrary to common belief, white orcas like Frosty are not outcasts within their pods. They are fully accepted by their fellow orcas and continue to participate in group activities, including hunting, reports The Guardian. Frosty’s pod has been observed as far south as Mexico and as far north as Canada, highlighting the extensive range of these remarkable creatures.

See Frosty in the video below.

The rare sighting of Frosty, the all-white killer whale, has left an indelible mark on the world of marine biology and wildlife enthusiasts. This unique creature is a testament to the diversity of life within our oceans and the fascinating genetic variations that can occur in the animal kingdom. While Frosty’s future remains uncertain, the hope is that it will continue to thrive in its natural habitat and inspire conservation efforts for the protection of these extraordinary marine species.

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