Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Five rare white killer whales spotted together in a sign of dangerous inbreeding

'To have five – or up to eight – in one area of the Russian north-western Pacific, is an indication that there may well be inbreeding issues there'

Ian Johnston Science Correspondent 
Thursday 1 September 2016

At least five white orcas have been spotted in the north-west Pacific in a sign that they could be becoming dangerously inbred, researchers have said.

Killer whales, as they are also known, are usually black and white but white ones have occasionally been seen before.

However, they are usually lone, immature animals and it is thought they have a tendency to die young as the trait can be associated with health problems.

Now researchers are concerned that at least one group of the apex predators are starting to struggle after between five and eight white orcas were seen in August last year off Russia's Kuril Islands, north of Japan.

Their findings have just been revealed in an academic paper in the journal Aquatic Mammals.

Erich Hoyt, who works with the Far East Russia Orca Project and who spotted Iceberg in 2010 and 2015, toldThe Independent their most significant finding was the number of white orcas in the group.

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