While freediving in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia’s Lady Elliot Island, photographer Kristian Laine spotted something that at first took him aback. Was his camera malfunctioning? Somehow, some way, the belly of the manta ray he was seeing through the lens appeared to be a vivid pink color. When Laine looked up from his camera to take another look, he realized his camera wasn’t glitching at all. With his own two eyes, he could see that the manta ray’s underbelly really did seem to be bright pink.
This isn’t the first time this specific ray has been spotted. Named after the goofy detective from the feature film Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau is the only manta ever spotted with such a distinct tint, and has only been seen about ten times since it was first discovered in 2015. Measuring more than 10 feet long, the creature is truly a captivating specimen to anyone who comes across its photo.
The cause of this animal’s rosy hue is still being investigated today. Over the years, a number of potential origins have been proposed, from stress reactions to infections and even diets unusually rich in highly pigmented foods. According to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, Project Manta (a group dedicated to manta ray research and conservation) has suggested that the rosy tones seen on Clouseau’s belly may actually be caused by a genetic mutation affecting dermal pigmentation (the coloration of its skin).
According to those who have observed Clouseau, the animal has not displayed behaviors that signal it to be in any sort of distress, so at least at first glance, its spectacularly unique appearance probably isn’t causing it to experience majorly disruptive side effects. For now, scientists continue to study phenomena such as this, and those lucky enough to witness it are likely left without words at the splendor that nature presents … both in ways anticipated, and those completely unexpected.
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