Between California's albino dolphin and Migaloo's babies, it's been a big year for white whales. This gorgeous footage, captured by Peter Nicholas of Western Australia Parks and Wildlife, was shot near Fitzgerald River National Park. 

Of the estimated 12,000 southern right whales in the world, about 1,500 are known to visit Australian waters each year, typically between May and October as they make their way to the Southern Ocean. A number of calves have been spotted recently, but park officials were quite surprised to see the nearly-colourless youngster. "It never ceases to amaze us!" they said in a Facebook post

As you can see in the video, the whale isn't completely white – likely caused by leucism. Unlike albinism, a condition that causes a complete lack of melanin (the pigment that gives colour to the skin, hair and eyes), leucism results in only a partial loss. The resulting patchwork skin tone has led to the condition's common name, "partial albinism".

Very few albino, or partially albino right whale calves have been seen in the wild, but amazingly, our camera crew spotted one in 2007 off the coast of South Africa: 

Animals that lack their natural pigments have it tough from the beginning. They can be harshly sensitive to sunlight, and often have other health problems associated with genetic mutations. The fact that this calf appears to be keeping up with mom is a good sign. 

Speaking of mom, you might notice she also has patches of white on her body. Unlike her baby, these "callosities" (roughened swaths of skin) only appear white because they're covered in thousands of whale lice! The tiny, crawling crustaceans hitch a ride on their giant host, and in turn help keep wounds clean and dead skin at bay. The skin underneath them is actually the same rubbery black as the rest the whale's body. 

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Top header image: Western Australia Parks and Wildlife