Instagram | @kristianlainephotography

Rare Pink Manta Ray Spotted By Australian Photographer

Amy Pilkington 26 Feb 2020

When wildlife photographer Kristian Laine headed out to the Great Barrier Reef, he expected to snap some pics of sea turtles, sharks, and manta rays, but had no idea that he'd return as one of the few people to ever capture the rare pink manta ray on camera.

I say "the rare" and not "a rare" because as far as scientists can tell, this beautiful ray is the only one of his kind.

Understandably, Laine thought his eyes and his camera were playing tricks on him at first.

Instagram | @kristianlainephotography

Even later, when he saw a photo posted up in a Lady Elliot Island restaurant, he thought it was a joke, he told ScienceAlert. However, a quick comparison of belly patterns proved that he had spotted an elusive local celebrity.

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The ray was first spotted in 2015 and caused quite the stir.

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Where one would usually expect a bright white or pale gray belly, one large ray had a very pink one.

He was dubbed "Inspector Clouseau" after the bumbling Pink Panther character.

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The Inspector has a distinctive white patch on his belly, which is how Laine was able to identify him as the same one five years later.

Facebook | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

That spot also indicated to researchers that it was unlikely that Clouseau's diet that was causing his unusual coloring.

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Right now, the best hypothesis is that the pink color is a genetic mutation.

Facebook | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

Dr. Kathy Townsend of Project Manta explained:

"The individual appears healthy with no unusual or uncharacteristic behaviors, and given the persistence of the pigment over time, we have also ruled out infection. We are hoping to further investigate this individual to confirm our hypothesis, but our current understanding is that this coloration is a result of a different expression in the melanin, likely a result of a genetic mutation. It is potentially an example of erythrism, where an animal’s skin, hair, feathers or fur exhibits a reddish pigmentation."

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Since first being spotted in 2015, he's shown up at least eight times.

Instagram | @kristianlainephotography

In one of those visits, he was clearly attempting to mate, so it's possible that he's passed along his quirky gene. Even if he hasn't yet, manta rays live an average of 20 years, so Clouseau has plenty of time.

h/t: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

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