Christian Lane has been filming underwater inhabitants for many years and seems to have seen everything. But the creature that he met near Lady Elliot Island at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef struck even such an experienced photographer. “When I saw him [through the lens], I thought my camera was broken,” Christian said in an interview with Science Alert.
Christian managed to photograph a stingray of the species Manta alfredi - but not a simple stingray, but the only known pink specimen. It was first seen and photographed in 2015 by diver Ryan Jeffrey.
Since then, it has been known about him mainly through mentions from the inhabitants of the neighboring islands; scientists stumbled upon an unusual creature no more than 10 times. In the pictures Lane took, a male pink manta ray was courting several females.
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Publication from Kristian (@kristianlainephotography) Feb 9, 2020 10:07 am PST
New photos of pink stingray / Kristian Laine
The fish, more than three meters wide, was nicknamed Inspector Cluso, after the hero of the Pink Panther film series. Its unusual color still remains a mystery to researchers. Despite the Inspector's "shyness", Project Manta scientists managed to get close to him in 2016 and take a small sample for a biopsy.
“There hasn't been a thorough study of the [stingray] diet or stable isotope analysis [in the tissue sample], but given the stability of the white birthmark and pink coloration, we believe that diet [as the cause of the unusual color] can be ruled out,” says the ecologist. Aisha Haynes. "The working theory is that we are dealing with a very rare form of melanin expression, but we have yet to confirm this."
Perhaps Inspector Cluseau has one of the forms of erythrism - a violation of the pigmentation of the skin in favor of red or similar colors. This phenomenon is most often due to genetic mutations and can be caused by both excessive synthesis of red pigments and insufficient synthesis of black ones (amelanism).
Another question that interests scientists is how Inspector Cluseau escapes from predators and pursues prey. The typical black-and-white coloration of manta rays helps them to be less noticeable, so the Inspector is probably riveted by increased attention not only from people.