April 15, 2016
An extremely rare albino shark has gone on display at Hastings’ Blue Reef Aquarium.
The native dogfish, which measures close to a metre in length, is bright white and has red eyes.
Nicknamed ‘Casper’ by keepers, after the friendly ghost, the little white shark shares his spacious new home with a collection of triggerfish.
“True albinism in marine species in general is highly unusual and it’s virtually unheard of in sharks,” said Blue Reef Aquarium’s Leanna Lawson.
“As well as being rare white or albino sharks do not tend to survive for long in the wild as they rely on their natural camouflage to protect them from larger predators.
“For this particular shark to have successfully reached adulthood and to be in such good condition demonstrates Casper is either very lucky or very smart,” she added.
Albinism is due to gene mutations that affect the production of pigmentation. True albino animals lack melanin and are white with no markings and with unpigmented pink eyes. In some species there is also a form known as blue-eyed albinism.
Like all members of the shark family, lesser spotted dogfish do not have a skeleton made of bone, but instead have very tough cartilage to support their bodies.
This makes them very flexible, and they can bend in any direction. They have teeth and jaws that are adapted to crushing up invertebrates and skin that is tougher and rougher than sand paper.