A white spirit spotted off the coast of Australia- Migaloo

A white spirit spotted off the coast of Australia- Migaloo

A unique white humpback whale in the world

Migaloo is a male humpback whale. As a humpback whale, it is unique because it is pure white all over, even in the blue ocean.

In 1991, when a group of fishermen was fishing in Byron Bay, they suddenly found a white spot on the distant sea occasionally.

At first, they thought it was an overturned boat, but when they walked in, they were surprised to find that it was a white baby humpback whale all over!

Subsequently, the public gave the discovered white elf a nice name: Migaloo, which means “white boy” in the indigenous language.

Migaloo is breaching
Migaloo is breaching

Migaloo, Female or a male?

However, despite being called a lad, scientists actually did not know whether Migaloo was a female or a male for a long time.

It was not until 2004 that scientists determined that it was indeed a male by collecting skin samples for analysis.

Moreover, the analysis believes that Migaloo should be born in 1986.

His tone

Also, regarding the gender of Migaloo, scientists recorded Migaloo’s singing underwater in 1998. Based on his singing, he was speculated to be a male because Migaloo was good at singing.

Generally, male humpback whales have better singing skills than female humpback whales, which is also an important way for male humpback whales to find mates.

His color

Scientists believe that Migaloo is more like a “lack of pigment” rather than albinism.

Because under normal circumstances, animals with albinism will have unusual eye colors, such as red or purple.

However, Migaloo’s eyes are generally black in humpback whales (although over time, Migaloo’s eyes gradually change due to direct sunlight into brown).

Not only that, Migaloo has traces of sunburn on his body, which is yellow, as shown in the picture below. so it is not albinism, but a special mutation.

Picture shows the brown color traces due to sunburn on its body
Traces of sunburn on his body

Where he lives?

In 2015, researchers clarified that Migaloo may begin to swim further seaward as he grows, making it conceivable that we would see less of him throughout the next few years. But Migaloo has been sighted every year from 2015 to 2020.

His migration passes numerous mainstream spots along the east coast while in transit to the birthing and mating grounds of the Great Barrier Reef, during May and November every year

After finding out the gender, the scientists discovered another impressive thing

Can Migaloo find his son?

It is difficult for male humpback whales to find their mate. In addition, Migaloo is a white mutant, which makes it easy to be rejected by other whales as aliens.

Especially until 2011, every time Migaloo was sighted, he wandered alone on the east coast of Australia.

Fortunately, when people saw Migaloo again in 2016, it was accompanied by another gray humpback whale.

Ariel view of suspected Migaloo's son accompanied with its mother
Mother and calf behavior (Migaloo’s baby)

And in 2018, a marine expert surprised to find that a pure white baby humpback whale and suspect it as Migaloo’s son who is foraging off the coastline of NSW (New South Whales) together with his mother!

Scientists said: As Migaloo’s son matures, he will be like his father and migrate away from the coast, which means that it is getting harder and harder to see.

But its baby is still small, the female humpback whale will take it for food and play near the coastline, which means that the chances of everyone seeing the white baby growing!

Fortunately, when people saw it again in 2011, it was  accompanied by another gray humpback whale
Migaloo spotted accompanied by gray humpback whale

Protective measures

In fact, white whales also have survival problems. In nature, not only chameleons or many other animals, but whales also have their own protective colors, which are called “countershading”.

Counter-shading means that the animal’s body is dark above and light below. If you look from above, these animals merge with the deep sea and if you look from below these animals merge with the sea level.

However, the white whales are too apparent, so they are easy to be prey, especially babies. And as I said before, the skin of white whales will be damaged by direct sunlight, and their eyesight will also be impaired.

Therefore, the Australian authorities (actually the full name is Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act Regulations) In order to protect this cute white spirit, prohibit anyone from approaching Migaloo for any reason.

PS: Due to the protection of special laws, no ship (for non-scientific purposes) can approach Migaloo and its baby within 500 meters, otherwise a fine of up to $16500 will be imposed.

Jason Connell spotted the Migaloo he saw was surprisingly close to the shore.
Migaloo surfaces near the shore (Image credit: Jason Connell)

Overview:

Migaloo is beautiful, white whales are precious…

As a small species in the world, we humans should be honored to live on the same planet with such beautiful creatures.

Therefore, in order to keep these beautiful creatures from being troubled in their lives, please start with the small things around you

Reduce the use of plastics (fewer takeaways, no disposable tableware, bring your own stainless steel straws and environmental protection cups, etc., see the push “Please reduce How much plastic you use!!!”), sorting garbage, etc.

Please have some overall view and don’t hurt other beautiful lives for your own benefit.

Lifting its tail only out of the water and slapping the surface
Migaloo’s tail slaps

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Photo source credit

The pictures in this article are taken by queensland.com and migaloo.com.au

Rajitha Dissanayake

Researcher in the field of Marine Mammals and Bio-acoustic

I'm a Master’s student in marine mammals and bio-acoustic laboratory, Institute of Deep-Sea Science and Engineering (IDSSE), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and focusing on the sustainable environmental application, conservation, and exploring all aspects of the ecology and behavior of marine mammals.

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