A U.S. Navy-sponsored marine mammal monitoring project has discovered a rare leucistic dolphin while attempting to get baseline information on a pod near Navy Station Norfolk, off the coast of Virginia.
The bottlenose dolphin was an exciting, unexpected find in the two-year-old study. Leucistic individuals are somewhat like albinos in that they lack pigment, but they still have enough pigment that their eyes are dark.
Researchers were in the midst of a routine monitoring exercise of a group of about 190 bottlenose dolphins, gathering information about the distribution, occurrence and density of marine mammals near Norfolk, when the rare dolphin showed up. It appeared to be as healthy and robust as its pod mates.
Top image: Leucistic bottlenose dolphin. (Credit: Jessica Aschettino/HDR Inc. under NMFS Permit 16239)