The leucistic crab found off the coast of Sooke. (Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea/Twitter)

The leucistic crab found off the coast of Sooke. (Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea/Twitter)

Meet Walter: The rare white crab who’s one in a million … or 6 million!

The odds of the crab’s random leucism mutation are as low as one in six million

More obvious than a diamond in the rough was the lone white Dungeness crab that fishers off the coast of Sooke, on southern Vancouver Island, found in their haul last week.

The full-sized Dungeness crab doesn’t have its typical grey-brown hue with tinges of purple and white-tipped claws. Instead, its claws and legs are white, while its shell is a cream colour.

Albinism was the first suspect for the crustacean’s colouration. But on closer inspection, the crab’s only partial lack of pigment suggests leucism, which results in the partial loss of pigmentation. Albinism is associated with a complete lack of pigment.

The crab’s random colour mutation odds are between one in one million to one in six million, says Kit Thornton, head of animal care at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea.

“As far as I know, we’ve never seen one in Canada,” she says. “Most of us (at the centre) will never see this again in our lifetime.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Rare white ‘spirit moose’ spotted in Cariboo

The crab was donated to the centre, and is currently on display in the Pacific Salmon exhibit. Although it doesn’t have an official name, staff have nicknamed the crab Walter.

Thornton says crab fisher Robbie Heggelund and his crew netted Walter five times before deciding the public should see it.

“When an animal sticks out in a certain way, people can tend to make more of a connection with it,” Thornton says. “That really helps with our conservation message. We want people to connect with animals in the Salish Sea so that they feel a passion to preserve them and conserve their habitats.”

READ MORE: An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

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