Migaloo, the famous white humpback whale, has been spotted off the coast of Australia, making his journey north from feeding grounds around Antarctica to wintering waters off the Great Barrier Reef. And this time, he isnâ€™t the only white whale making the journey, leading scientists to wonder if he has an offspring or a doppelganger.
Migaloo was first sighted in 1991 off Byron Bay, Australiaâ€™s most easterly point; researchers bestowed the name â€” which in the language of Queenslandâ€™s Aboriginal community means â€œwhite fellaâ€ â€” shortly afterward. Not until 2004, when he sloughed some skin that scientists with the Southern Cross University Whale Research Center were able to collect and subject to DNA analysis, were those scientists able to confirm his gender and develop a genetic fingerprint that will enable them to check his relationship with any other whales from which they gain samples.
Although Migaloo was for years assumed to be unique, he now has a younger, similarly-pigmented companion. The calf was first spotted in 2011, and was seemingly sighted again earlier this month, as part of a group of four whales swimming north off New South Wales. On that same day, what was presumed to be Migaloo was spotted swimming slowly with a group of six whales farther north.
Given the extreme rarity of a white humpback, the existence of the younger whale (unofficially dubbed MJ for Migaloo Junior) is remarkable, whether it is Migalooâ€™s offspring or the calf of an entirely different pair of whales.