Brazilian biologists have reported an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered species that lives off the southern coast of South America.
The research group, based at Univille University in Santa Catarina, said that it was the first recorded instance of an albino in the Toninha or Franciscana dolphin Pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water.
Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist of 'Project Toninhas’' said she first saw the white calf with pinkish fins with its mother at the end of October. Her group photographed him in early November.
"We were surprised, shocked," Sartori said. "It's very small, and the colour is really different. We didn't know what it was at first."
Little is known about the genetic predisposition in dolphins because it's so unusual.
Sartori said the rarity of the baby spotted by her group only highlights the need to preserve the Bay of Babitonga in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, where this population of endangered dolphins lives.
"Albino animals generally have fewer chances of survival because they have greater chances of being caught by predators," Sartori said. "Here, in this bay, they don't have natural predators. But there is a lot of environmental degradation from two ports, industrial and residential sewage, and tourism. This is another argument for its protection."
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