Updated: Apr 8
This pink manta ray, named Inspector Clouseau, has resurfaced off Australia’s coast. No one knows why it has a bubble-gum pink underside or if there are others out there.
First spotted lurking in the waters off Australia’s Lady Elliot Island in late 215, the 11-foot male fish—cheekily named for the detective in the Pink Panther franchise—has been glimpsed only a handful of times since, reports Bethany Augliere for National Geographic - is the only known pink manta ray in the world.
Photographer Kristian Laine was freediving recently off the southernmost island of Australia's Great Barrier Reef when a bright pink manta ray glided by. He thought for sure that his camera was malfunctioning.
“I had never even heard of a pink manta. And when I first saw it, I thought my camera was playing up. Only later that night I saw a photo of a pink manta on the restaurant’s notice board and thought it was a joke. Until I rushed to check the belly patterns in my camera. I feel humbled and extremely lucky” said Mr Laine.
Scientists with the Australian research group Project Manta, who study the rosy ray, have confirmed its colour to be real. At first, they theorized Inspector Clouseau’s colour was the result of a skin infection or diet, similar to how pink flamingos get their colour from eating tiny crustaceans.
Video by Kristian Laine
But in 2016, Project Manta researcher Amelia Armstrong took a small skin biopsy from the famous animal, and their resulting analyses ruled out diet and infection as the cause. Now, Project Manta’s leading theory is that the manta has a genetic mutation in its expression of melanin, or pigment, says Asia Armstrong, a research assistant for the group.
And the ray is not just a cool-looking animal—it could contribute to science, she adds by email. “Understanding the origin of this genetic mutation may help inform us” about how colour evolved in mantas, she says.
Reef mantas typically come in three colour patterns: All-black, all-white, or black-and-white. The latter, which is most common, features a pattern called countershading, in which the fish has a black back and a white belly. When viewed from above, their dark backs blend in with the darker water below, and when viewed from below, their light bellies blend into the sunlit surface—a configuration generally thought to offer protection from predators, such as sharks.
Guy Stevens, CEO and co-founder of the U.K.-based Manta Trust, says "They are big when they are born, and they grow quite quickly in their first few years to make them large enough that only the biggest of marine predators prey on them. It just goes to show—nature will always surprise you. Now the search is on for a blue manta".
GREAT BARRIER REEF
When it comes to natural attractions and beautiful scenery, Australia is pretty spoilt, and what better way to take advantage of this than on your next Queensland family holiday.
As one of Australia's most popular family holiday destinations, Queensland offers plenty of activities and attractions. However, it's safe to say that any trip to Queensland would be incomplete without checking out one of its most beautiful natural sights, the Great Barrier Reef!
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres.
Located in the Coral Sea just off the state's coast, the reef is packed with things to do and see - but here are the top four reasons you should consider including a trip to the reef into your itinerary.