Biologists who were studying the endangered Brazilian Dolphins found in southern coast of South America were in for a pleasant surprise when they found an extremely rare albino baby dolphin swimming in the ocean. The researchers believe this is the first recorded observation of such kind.
The research group, based at Univille university in Santa Catarina said that the pontoporia blainvillei species is a very shy animal and it rarely jumps out of water. It’s known in Brazil as Toninha and in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin.
While studying these endangered dolphins, the researchers found one odd colored baby swimming with an adult dolphin.
Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist of Project Toninhas was the first to spot the white calf with pinkish fins in the end of October. The research group again spotted and photographed the baby in November.
“We were surprised, shocked,” Sartori said. “It’s very small, and the color is really different. We didn’t know what it was at first.”
The young dolphins live on mother’s milk for about six months and are dependent on the adults for almost a year. The researcher says that the albino dolphin was most probably with its mother.
The Brazilian Dolphins are an endangered species. They have a long snout which easily gets entangled in fishing nets and if not quickly released they can drown or die of stress.
Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments in the body, giving an individual very light or white skin and hair. 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, tourism. This is an another argument for its protection.”
The news of the baby might only increase the number of tourists in the region. Hopefully, the dolphins will remain safe in their Brazilian home.