Photographer Spots the World’s Only Pink Manta Ray in Australia

Pink Manta Ray in Australia by Kristian Laine

While we've seen everything from cotton-candy colored lobsters to spotted zebras, nothing quite prepared us for the sight of a pink manta ray. Thanks to the images shared by photographer Kristian Laine, the world got a glimpse of the unique animal, which has only been seen seven times since it was first discovered in 2015.

The male manta ray calls the waters off Australia's Lady Elliot Island, located in the Great Barrier Reef, home and measures eleven feet. Though he's been studied extensively by Project Manta, a research group that focuses on the ecology and biology of Australia's manta rays, Laine's incredible images have helped the animal go viral.

Nicknamed Inspector Clouseau in an homage to The Pink Panther, the manta ray is so unusual that it made Laine think that he had a camera malfunction. “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 said. However, there was no such mistake and Inspector Clouseau's vibrant pink color makes him one of a kind.

In an effort to learn more about his coloration, Project Manta did a skin biopsy in 2016. This led them to rule out illness or diet as causes for his unique color. Researchers now believe the manta ray's pink skin is due to a genetic mutation that causes it to express melanin differently. Most likely this is a condition called erythrism, which causes an animal's pigmentation to express as red or pink. Understanding this mutation could eventually help scientists learn more about how the coloration of manta rays has evolved.

To put things into perspective, manta rays are typically either all black, all white, or black with a white belly. While these types of genetic mutations can sometimes cause animals to be more vulnerable to predators, experts believe that Inspector Clouseau isn't having any issues due to his sheer size. As the largest of all rays, adults can weigh up to nearly 3,000 pounds, so understandably he doesn't have too much trouble fending for himself.

Though he may not know it, Inspector Clouseau has now become an online celebrity for his unique coloration. For Laine, the experience is once in a lifetime and has made him one of just a handful of people to experience the pink manta ray's beauty in real life. “I feel humbled and extremely lucky,” Laine told National Geographic

If you are interested in owning Inspector Clouseau's photo, Laine has prints available in his online shop.

Inspector Clouseau is a pink manta ray living in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Pink Manta Ray at the Great Barrier Reef

Pink Manta Ray

A genetic mutation has most likely caused him to be the only known pink manta ray in the world.

Manta Ray with Genetic Mutation

Since being discovered in 2015, he's only been seen a handful of times.

Inspector Clouseau Pink Manta Ray

Kristian Laine: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kristian Laine.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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