A Pink Manta ray, called inspector Clouseau, has become the subject of much speculation after his most recent visit to Lady Elliot Island.  Well known for its Manta Rays, this tiny island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, recently hosted the very distinguished  visitor. 

While some people have speculated that this might have been a prank, it would appear that the creatures unusual hue is not due to photoshop. Scientists at Project Manta who have been studying this unique animal have confirmed its colour to be real. Unaware of this fact the photographer, Kristian Laine, who took the most recent images thought his camera was malfunctioning at first. 

Pink Manta Ray 1

The Pink Manta, Thought to be the only one of its kind in the world, was first sighted in 2015. Since then he has made occasional visits to the island. Theories about it coloring have included its diet or an infection. However these theories have been disproved after a small skin biopsy from the creature was analysed by Project Manta.

Research assistance for Project Manta, Asia Haines said that the leading theory now is that “The manta has a genetic mutation in its expression of melanin, or pigment.  It is not just a cool-looking animal—it could contribute to science. Understanding the origin of this genetic mutation may help inform us about how color evolved in mantas.”

Pink Manta Ray 2

Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Louisiana’s Nicholls State University, Said “the mutation could be a condition called erythrism, which causes an animal’s skin pigmentation to be reddish, or in some cases, pink. Other more well-known genetic mutations to an animal’s pigment can make them melanistic (black) or albino (white).”

Mantas are usually a mixture of black and white, occasionally the are mostly black or mostly white and it would also seen that they come in pink on occasion too.

Photo Credit: Kristian Laine & Amelia Armstrong

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