Platypuses are peculiar animals native to Australia. They have a bill like a duck, lay eggs like chickens, swim like beavers and produce milk like cows. Their most mundane feature might be their brown coloring.
So when a white platypus surfaced near a group of scientists in New South Wales, they were shocked.
The researchers were surveying turtle populations along the Gwydir River in 2021 when the ghost-colored platypus appeared, according to an Oct. 31 study in the journal Australian Mammalogy.
“It stayed on the surface just long enough for us to capture a short video before disappearing with a splash,” the study’s lead co-author Louise Streeting wrote in a Nov. 1 article in Australian Geographic.
“We stared at each other in disbelief before erupting with excitement,” she wrote.
Researchers saw the white platypus 10 times between February 2021 and July 2023, the study said.
Several short videos show the rare animal floating along the surface of the river before quickly diving out of sight with a splash. In one video, the platypus appears to swim almost directly toward the camera.
“We call it ‘Bloop’ because you only get to see it for a few seconds at a time,” Streeting told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
One photo shows the first-of-its-kind platypus along the riverbank near several turtles. Its coloring makes it easy to spot among the surrounding brown tones of the logs, turtles and murky water. Other photos show it floating in the middle of the river.
“The animal’s fur was bright white, but its feet and bill were dark, suggesting the animal is a leucistic form, with reduced pigmentation, rather than an albino, which would lack pigmentation altogether,” Streeting wrote.
After searching archives from newspapers, zoos, wildlife organizations and museums, researchers found that only 12 white platypuses have been documented since 1803 and that Bloop is the first leucistic platypus ever recorded, the study said.
“Platypuses are incredibly unique animals and we feel privileged to have the opportunity to observe them in the wild,” Streeting wrote in the Australian Geographic article. “But we feel especially fortunate to have encountered such an unusual color morph.”
The research team included Louise Streeting, Richard Daugherty, Sarah Burrows, Deborah Bower, Sandy Watson, Neve Daugherty and Martin Dillon.
The Gwydir River is about 315 miles north of Sydney.