There’s been much speculation as to why Migaloo the white whale was seen in New Zealand. To be so much far off from the Eastern Coast of Australia, its usual habitat, is not necessarily shocking, yet it is pretty unusual.
Migaloo is an (presumed) albino humpback whale, usually found swimming along the Australian coastline in this particular time of the year. It gained fame for it being one of only four white humpbacks reported in the world, and for its unusual dorsal fin which gave it the nick-name “razor-back.” The whale has become a symbol for Australia, often being called the white whale, probably as a reference to Moby Dick (although the whale in the novel by Melville is a sperm whale, not a humpback).
Sunday, near Cook Strait, the small portion of water that separates the North Islands from the South Islands, a team of researchers set up for a humpback whale sighting. This was part of an annual winter event survey that catalogues the humpback whales.
The scientists chose this strait since it is a known migratory route for those whales wanting to travel north of the Antarctic to meet with their friends from Eastern Australia.
As a true romantic, reports claim that Migaloo usually swims along with other ordinary humpbacks, particularly females, and follows the same practices as normal males willing to engage in the mating ritual. It seems chivalry is very much alive with these whales, as the females often are escorted in their long migratory journey, and are being sung to by their companions.
Migaloo is no exception, not even this time. Ted Perano, an ex-whaler who happened to be on the team, reported seeing Migaloo swimming along with one other dark-skinned humpback.
The survey team used this occasion to take the first biopsy dart of the famous ocean dweller. This sample of tissue will be used by analyzing the DNA from it and comparing it to an earlier sample, so as to confirm that if was actually Migaloo, and not one of the other white humpbacks.
Through this sample, researchers will also look for signs that will solve the dilemma of whether it’s an albino specimen, or simply white through color variation. Through these experiments, they seek to uncover if the whale can reproduce, since the likelihood of its offspring being also white is very high.
According to recent research, Migaloo has more than 24 years, and is expected to live around the normal age of a humpback, which is 96.
The survey, which is not yet over, has had thrilling results, with 122 whales spotted, as of recent. That is much more than the previous high, which was 106 in 2012.
Image source: grindtv.com
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