Caitlin Mackey was at the Clearwater Basin Marina last Thursday afternoon when she spotted a larger dolphin swimming next to the sea wall. Swimming alongside the dolphin were two calves, including an all-white baby.
"We see all kinds of dolphins, but never this one," Mackey told FOX 13. "It looked to me that they were hunting near the sea wall, as they normally do. The back caudal fin is deformed, but as you can see, it seemed to be swimming fine."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says very little is known about albino dolphins due to their "extreme rarity." What is known about albinism comes from humans, where it is a genetic predisposition shown as a lack of melanin pigments.
Scientists estimate that albinism in mammals happens in about one out of every 10,000 births.
"Most forms of albinism are a result of the biological inheritance of genetically recessive genes passed from both parents to an individual, though some rare forms are inherited from only one parent," NOAA says. "This genetic trait is characterized by white or light skin and hair, the appearance of pink or red eye coloring and often-impaired vision."
Overall, 21 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been observed with albinism. There have been less than 20 albino dolphin sightings in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the agency.
The most famous of those sightings is a dolphin near Louisiana nicknamed "Pinky," who was first spotted back in 2007. Experts believe the dolphin has a form of albinism, which can give the animal a pink hue, but they are unable to say with certainty.
In 2019, boaters saw Pinky swimming alongside another pink-hued dolphin calf in the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Louisiana, and believe it was possibly her baby.