Nature

World’s only pink manta ray spotted swimming off the Great Barrier Reef

A photographer has captured pictures of an ‘absolutely unforgettable encounter’ with the only known pink manta ray in the world.

The ray – which has been dubbed Inspector Clouseau, after the detective from the Pink Panther movies – has only ever been seen a handful of times, and Finnish underwater photographer Kristian Laine was lucky enough to get within touching distance of the marine marvel.

Inspector Clouseau is the only known pink manta ray in the world. Credit: Magnus News AgencyInspector Clouseau is the only known pink manta ray in the world. Credit: Magnus News Agency

His breathtaking snaps were captured near Lady Elliot Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, last year.

Reflecting on the magical moment, Kristian said: “It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to 10 sightings since the first sighting in 2015.

“I felt amazed afterwards but also felt like when I was in its eye level, I felt like he was smiling at me.

“He was big and I got into a touch range but obviously didn’t touch, I was super close, about a metre at best.

“The whole encounter lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes and he was part of a mating manta train that was just circling around a cleaning station.”

To be that close to a mating manta train – the stuff of dreams.

Reef manta rays generally tend to come in three different colours: black, white and a combination of the two. The mixed configuration is the most common, as dark backs enable them to blend in with the gloomy water underneath and a lighter underside allows them to blend in with the sunlight from above.

Scientists aren't sure why the inspector is pink. Credit: Magnus News Agency
Scientists aren’t sure why the inspector is pink. Credit: Magnus News Agency

Why exactly Inspector Clouseau – who has a wingspan close to seven metres and weighs nearly two tonnes – has such a distinct pink colouration is still a bit of a mystery to scientists.

Kristian said: “I have read multiple different answers, they have analysed a sample of his skin and they have changed their theories many times and still don’t seem to know for sure.

“I think the latest theory is that it’s some sort of a genetic mutation causing a pink of melanin to be expressed.”