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Rosy Ray

KRISTIAN LAINE PHOTOGRAPHY

SUCKERFISH: A remora clings to the underside of the ray, feeding off food scraps the manta drops and parasites on its skin.

While scuba diving in Australia this past summer, photographer Kristian Laine spotted a manta ray with a surprising bright-pink belly. Usually, the undersides of manta rays are black or white.

Divers first spied the rose-colored ray back in 2015. They nicknamed it Inspector Clouseau after the detective in the Pink Panther movies. Soon after, a team of scientists with Project Manta, a research group based at the University of Queensland in Australia, started observing the unique fish. They believe Inspector Clouseau’s pink coloring is most likely caused by a genetic mutation. That’s when a change occurs in an organism’s DNA—the molecule that carries hereditary information.

Mutations have caused other animals, like leopards and grasshoppers, to pop up in surprising shades of red. But as far as manta rays go, Clouseau “is the first of its kind in the world that we know of,” says Asia Armstrong, a marine biologist with Project Manta.

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