There are rare animals, and then there are those that are completely one-of-a-kind. This pink manta ray belongs to the latter, distinguished group. Inspector Clouseau is the world’s only known pink manta ray, first spotted in 2015. Named for the inspector in the Pink Panther movies, sightings of Clouseau are incredibly rare. That’s what makes this most recent close-up photo, captured by photographer Kristian Laine off Australia’s Lady Elliot Island, so special.
Laine told Australian Geographic that at first he didn’t believe his eyes, thinking the ray’s pink coloring was due to a camera malfunction, “At first I was very confused,” he said, “I actually thought my strobes were playing up.”
The Project Manta research group has been looking into the cause of the ray’s pinkish hue ever since it was first seen. Stress, skin infection, and diet have all been considered as possible causes, but eventually ruled out. Now, Project Manta believes the color is the result of a genetic mutation that affects skin pigmentation. It would, however, be the first such mutation documented in a manta ray.