Risso’s dolphins in the Adriatic
During our full-day search for Cuvier's beaked whales in the...
Within the activities of project NETCET –Network for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Sea Turtles in the Adriatic (http://www.netcet.eu/),researchers of the Blue World Institute (http://blue-world.org/) and Cetacea Foundation (Riccione) (http://fondazionecetacea.org/) started a new photo-identification based research of bottlenose dolphins in the area of Ravenna (IT), north Adriatic. As a leading large marine vertebrate research organisation, the Blue World Institute provided professional and expert help in starting the research, while researchers of Cetacea Foundation will carry on with the research activities throughout the summer. The start of the research was very successful as we have made asighting of an extremely rare, albino bottlenose dolphin. Although we were previously aware of its presence in the north Adriatic, there wereno good quality photos or sightings which could be used to get a more detailed insight. As far as we know, this is the first ever recorded albino bottlenose dolphin in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea!
Bottlenose dolphins are usually black or grey on their back and sides, light grey on their belly. Their colour comes from melanin, a pigment produced by the cells in the skin. However, as is the case with other animals or even humans, individuals without this pigment occasionally appear due to a genetic mutation. The skin of these individuals appears pinkish and white. If there is no melanin in the eyes, they have a distinct red coloration(due to the fact that you can see blood vessels in the back of the eye through the transparent iris). This is called albinism, and the animalsaffected are called albino individuals.
Albinism is extremely rare in nature, being the result of a genetic mutation in several genes. Depending on which genes were affected, there can be animals with someparts of the body that are white,which is called partial albinism or the entire body and eyes beingaffected,which is called “true”albinism. So far, it has been recorded in about twenty species of cetaceans (dolphins are cetaceans as well!). Moby Dick is probably the best known white whale in history, even though it is fictional and featured in a novel by Herman Melville.Other famous albino Cetaceans are Migaloo –albino humpback whale observed in vicinity of Australiaand Iceberg –albino killer whale observed near Kamchatka in Russia.Due to the rarity of this condition in nature, most of our knowledge stems from research on humans. We know that it is a recessive trait expressing itself only if the mutated genes were received from both parents. It is so rare that there were only about 20or so albino bottlenose dolphins recorded since the mid-20thcentury, when the first individual was sighted. One of them is now in the Adriatic!
Due to their low numbers, these animals attract human attention leading to some having the misfortune of being captured and held captive. One of the first known examples was Snowball, who was exhibited in the Miami aquarium, USA in the 1960’s. The best known albino bottlenose dolphin today is probably Angel (or Shoujo) –an albino calf that was caught in January 2014 in the infamous Taiji Bay, Japan where hunters brutally kill hundreds of dolphins each year.The calf is on display to visitors in Taiji aquarium and its lifespan will probably be short.
Our Adriatic white bottlenose dolphin, which we named Albus (latin ‘albus’ meaning white), has a much brighter future because it is free and, with our help, also safe. The genetic mutation leading to albinism can also cause oversensitivity of the skin and eyes, partial blindness and other health issues. As far as we were able to ascertain, Albus appears to be fit, well-nourishedand is not isolated from other dolphins. Considering animals in nature are usually well adapted to the colour of their environment, individuals that stand out are easyto spot by predators. There is a possibility that other animals will isolate albino individuals to reduce the danger from predators. However, bottlenose dolphins are extremely social and caring animals which do not leave any of their own behind, not even in the face of danger. Bottlenose dolphins aretop predators in the Adriatic because there are no large sharks that would be a danger to them. This means Albus and our bottlenose dolphins are safefrom predators. Unfortunately, humans and our activities present danger to dolphins, so we should act to minimise our impact on the sea and bottlenose dolphins.
Albus was sighted with another bottlenose dolphin of normal coloration. Both animals were swimming and catching fish with very little care for our presence. Considering their behaviour and the fact only two animals were present, we assume Albus is male. Adult males in the Adriatic usually prey and spend time in pairs or smaller groups. They join females mainly when mating.
In order to enable efficient monitoring of Albus and the exchange of information, we have developed special web-pages you can access at http://blue-world.org/albus/
Due to the fact Albus is the first and, so far the only albino bottlenose dolphin recorded in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea, it is our responsibility to try and protect him, ensuring a safe future!
Therefore, we kindly ask that youto report your sightings andsend us the time, date and location of your sighting if you come across Albus. If possible, send photos and video to email@example.com or fill in the on-line form at http://blue-world.org/en/get-involved/i-saw-a-dolphin/. Also, you should always abide to the Code of conduct when watching dolphins (http://blue-world.org/en/dolphin-watching/) so that you leave enough room for Albus and other individuals in the groupto behave normally.
Help us protect Albus by donatingand supporting our conservation activities! Donations can be madeon-line by adopting Albus –the white bottlenose dolphin(http://blue-world.org/en/adopt/)! We hope Albus will have “an army” of adopters who are going to become his friends and active supporters of marine protection activities.
You can also use an adoption package as a gift! It is very unique because there is probably no other place in the world where you can adopt an albino dolphin!
For regular updates and news follow us on http://www.facebook.com/blueworldinstitute
For high-quality pictures and video for publishing please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs for webannouncementscan be downloaded at:http://blue-world.org/en/press/albus/ with quoting the source as ‘Blue World Institute’ and the web address www.blue-world.org
For more detailed information please contact us directly or visit our web site.
THE BLUE WORLD INSTITUTE OF MARINE RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION
Kaštel24, 51551 Veli Lošinj
t: +38551604666; f: +38551604666
The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation is a Croatian non-profit non-governmental organisation based on Lošinj Island. Although our offices are in ‘small’ Veli Lošinj, our research is aimed at the entire Adriatic. We strive for excellence in research, education and protection programmes. Our primary interest is the sea and its biodiversity, but our activities are also directed towards raising awareness, protecting and conserving the entire marine environment as well as promoting sustainable development.
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[caption id="attachment_11510" align="alignleft" width="362"] Cuvier's beaked whale in southern Adriatic[/caption]...
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