White dolphin spotted in Monterey Bay

white dolphin
White dolphin photos are courtesy of Melissa Galleti/Monterey Bay Whale Watch

Whale watchers in Monterey Bay, California, were thrilled Sunday to see a strikingly white Risso's dolphin swimming with gray pod mates.

The extraordinary sighting was made by passengers and crew aboard a Monterey Bay Whale Watch vessel. The accompanying photos were provided by naturalist Melissa Galleti, who said the young dolphin was swimming with its mother and two other cow-calf pairs.

white dolphin

The crew was not able to determine whether the dolphin was a true albino, with pink eyes, or a partial albino (leucistic, with blue eyes), because "this little one kept coming to the surface with its eyes closed," Galieti stated on the company Facebook page.

[Related: Popularity soars for rare dolphin with white patches]

Its body outline in some of the photos, however, is tinged pink.

white dolphin

Galieti added via email: "It also exhibited some play behaviors, like pec-fin slapping and rolling. All the guests were excited to see something so stunning."

It's the same white dolphin that was spotted in Monterey Bay on August 28, so it seems to be familiar with the area, and passengers undoubtedly are being told to be on the lookout for a white dolphin.

white dolphin

Risso's dolphins are stout, blunt-nosed mammals that usually stay fairly far offshore.

[Related: Surfers encounter rare albino right whale calf]

Their normal color is dark gray, but their bodies typically feature many scratches or scars, which are believed to be caused by other Risso's dolphins, squid (their favorite prey), or parasites.

Calves tend to be a lighter gray. White Risso's dolphins, like white whales, are extremely rare.

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