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Rare White Dungeness Caught off N. Oregon Coast is 1 in Million - See Video

Published 03/01/23 at 6:52 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Rare White Dungeness Caught off N. Oregon Coast is 1 in a Million - Video

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(Seaside, Oregon) – That old phrase of “one in a million” is thrown around quite a bit, and played loosely, to say the least. Yet on the Oregon coast, in the case of one special critter, this is no hyperbole.

Seaside Aquarium recently had a rare white Dungeness crab come their way, which is literally a one in a million find. (Photos Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium, by exclusive permission to Oregon Coast Beach Connection).

According to officials at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), it's about a million-to-one shot you'd find one, but there's a trick to those stats.

The aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said this white Dungeness crab is not an albino – technically.

“Your first instinct may very well be to call this colorless guy albino but notice the very normal black eyes,” Boothe said. “This crab has a rare genetic condition called leucism. Albinism does make animals lose pigment like this, but it is also paired with red eyes and can be found in humans too. Leucism is characterized as only a partial loss of pigment, hence the black eyes instead of red, and interestingly cannot be found in humans.”

Seaside Aquarium named him Sour Cream, which is a common description of these unique creatures' wacky color. He is almost 7 inches long.

The odds of a Dungeness getting this mutation are one in six million, according to Victoria Island's Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea (Canada).

We don't have to tell you what a Dungeness crab is, chances are you've eaten or heard about them- whether or not you're from the west coast. But did you know that 1 in every 8 million can be COMPLETELY white?? Here he is using his mandibles, the oral appendages, to ingest a piece of capelin. Since he is defenseless, we will keep him in a tank by himself where he is safe from being picked on.

Posted by Seaside Aquarium on Friday, February 17, 2023

While ODFW estimated the chance of finding a white Dungeness – on the Oregon coast or anywhere – is about one in a million, there's a twist here. The agency said Oregon coast crabbers alone take in eight million Dungeness crabs per year, so that leaves some room to find more. ODFW says it gets about two or three of these reported each year.

Another aspect that amplifies the rarity of this kind of Dungeness is that these colorations make them quite vulnerable.

“It is rare for an all-white crab to reach harvest size as their white shell stands out to potential predators,” Boothe said. “That makes your chances of finding a crab like this less than 1 in a million.”

Most crab have a purplish color to them, which affords them some amount of camouflage.

In the video, you can see puffs of stuff coming out of Sour Cream. It appears as if the little guy is smoking (way to go lessening your life span, little guy). Kidding. Boothe said that stream of particles coming out from Sour Cream is him chewing on his food, and those are bits of fish floating off.

It seems Sour Cream might eat like the Cookie Monster – a bit of a slob.

Then there's something else weird about this white Dungeness.

“This unique crab was caught by local commercial crabbers and instead of having him become someone’s next meal they thought of calling us,” Boothe said. “Upon arrival, our new friend had no pincers (the big pinchy parts used for defense and tearing food apart), but that does not affect his appetite.”

Thus, it's not going to be a good idea to throw him back in the wild. Between his color and lack of means to grab food for himself, he'd be in trouble.

In the video, you see he's eating with no problem, in spite of the lack of pincers. There's more good news there, too.

“It is true that if he does go through another molt he may grow back his pincers but they will be much smaller than the average six,” Boothe said. “As crabs get larger, they molt less frequently so we do not know if he will go through another molt.”

How long will this white Dungeness live? Aquarium staff are unsure, but he's not old and he appears to be healthy. He'll be safe from predators here, to be certain.

Oregon Coast Aquarium wound up with a whopping, astronomical two of these white Dungeness a few years back, and the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea had one two years ago.

Sour Cream is on display at the Seaside Aquarium – so this is your one-in-a-million shot at seeing one. It's considered a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Dungeness crab live for about ten years, so you may have some time. Most commercially-caught crab are around four years old. On the Prom in Seaside - Seaside Aquarium website 503-738-6211

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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