Willow the (White) Whale

An all white humpback whale was sighted off the coast of Norway earlier this week. It is believed that only 2 other “all white” humpbacks have been observed. British maritime engineer Dan Fisher named this particular whale Willow the Whale.

Twins! (kinda)

Why is this humpback all white? Willow has a condition called leucism, which causes a reduction in all skin pigments. How is leucism different from albinism you may ask? Albinism only effects the production of melanin, while leucism prevents formation of all pigments. Many are calling Willow Moby Dick’s doppelganger, although Moby Dick was supposed to be a sperm whale.

So why are we so fascinated with albinism and leucism?

Leucistic Penguin

Many leucistic animals have been found, including penguins, orcas, alligators, snakes, birds, axolotls and lions. I find these animals interesting because they seem to be evolutionarily less fit for their environment due to their stark white color. How does an all white snake camouflage itself from a predator? I imagine this is less of an issue for whales and lions. Some folk tales attribute magical powers to albino animals, and there is even an urban myth about albino alligators in New York sewers.

Why do you find albino & leucistic animals interesting?

Video of Willow

Video of all white orca

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