World's Only Known Pink Manta Ray Photographed In The Great Barrier Reef

World's Only Known Pink Manta Ray Photographed In The Great Barrier Reef

The manta ray is an 11-foot male named Inspector Clouseau, after the detective from the Pink Panther movies because of his bright pink belly

There are a lot of undiscovered creatures on Earth and most of them reside in the dark region of the ocean. We can never really be sure of what we will discover at the next turn underwater. Deep-sea photographers have been working hard to bring us a glimpse of the creatures that are elusive. This rare octopus with a transparent head was recently captured by a photographer that just gets us wondering what other creatures are waiting to mesmerize us. Joining the ranks of rare, outlandish underwater creatures is this pink manta ray that was spotted by a photographer off the coast of Australia.




Photographer Kristian Laine was freediving off the southernmost island of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when he saw a bright pink manta ray. Laine had no idea about what rarity had just glided past him. He was sure that his camera was malfunctioning. “I had no idea there were pink mantas in the world, so I was confused and thought my strobes were broken or doing something weird,” he told National Geographic. Laine was one of the lucky ones who got a glimpse of the rare pink manta ray that has only been spotted seven times in the past five years.




The manta ray is named Inspector Clouseau, after the detective from the Pink Panther movies. He is an 11-foot male with a bright pink belly and if you are as lucky as Laine, you can find him floating around the waters around Lady Elliot Island. He is an especially rare creature because he is actually the only known pink manta ray in the world. “I feel humbled and extremely lucky,” Laine said about the sighting. Inspector Clouseau was swimming with other male manta rays competing to win over a female. The picture went viral on social media and thanks to Laine, the rest of us got to see him as well.




Inspector Clouseau is obviously being studied extensively by Project Manta. They conducted research about the pink coloration of his skin in 2016. This skin biopsy has, fortunately, ruled out illness or diet as the cause for the unique color. It has now been concluded that the manta ray's pink skin is due to a genetic mutation that causes it to express melanin differently, reported My Modern Met. This mutation is a condition called erythrism, according to Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Louisiana’s Nicholls State University. This condition causes an animal’s skin pigmentation to be reddish, or in some cases, like that of Inspector Clouseau, pink.




“Having seen other pigmentation-related mutations in fishes, it’s not completely unexpected that this exists, but it’s really cool to see regardless,” David stated. This has been studied earlier in leopards and even grasshoppers but this is the first time it has been noted in a manta ray, according to the Smithsonian Magazine. Other known mutations to an animal’s pigment can make them melanistic (black) or albino (white). Guy Stevens, CEO and co-founder of the UK-based Manta Trust, also agrees that erythrism is the most plausible explanation.




“They are big when they are born, and they grow quite quickly in their first few years to make them large enough that only the biggest of marine predators prey on them,” Stevens explained about how Inspector Clouseau's discoloration will not potentially pose any untoward dangers from predators. “It just goes to show—nature will always surprise you,” and added, “Now the search is on for a blue manta.”




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