Rare Harbour Porpoise Seen In Cornwall
Cornwall is as famous for its spectacular scenery and wonderful wildlife watching opportunities as it is for its clotted cream, but a recent visitor to our coast is causing a bit of a stir!
On 14th August 2018 an extremely rare white harbour porpoise was photographed by Duncan and Hannah Jones of the Marine Discovery Penzance, who run wildlife spotting in Mounts Bay.
Amazingly the porpoise is one of only a few that has ever been seen anywhere in the world.
Also called as a leucistic porpoise, the white colour is probably due to a condition known as leucism, which is a condition similar to albinism.
It is caused by a loss of pigmentation which results in patchy, pale skin, hair or features but does not affect the eyes.
The white porpoise in Mounts Bay was reportedly completely white, apart from a small area around its blow hole.
Harbour porpoises are one of the world’s smallest marine mammals and unlike dolphins they tend to be loners.
They can usually survive to be around 15 years old in the wild and live on a diet of squid, fish and crustaceans.
Known in mediaeval times as the ‘pig fish’ there are an estimated 700,000 harbour porpoise worldwide, but only a tiny proportion are leucistic.
Standing out in the wild, while wonderful for us to see, can have negative repercussions.
Most porpoise are dark grey with a lighter grey belly, camouflaging them in the water when seen from above or below.
The white porpoise would be more obvious to both predators and prey, making it harder for them to hunt and avoid predation.
In 2016 another white porpoise was spotted further up the coast in north Cornwall, it has not been confirmed whether this sighting is the same animal.