While the entire world is focused on researching space and what lies beyond the stars, with one of the most recent advances being these high-resolution images of the sun, others are pointing to what we still don’t know right here on Earth.

According to the National Ocean Service, more than 80% of our planet’s seas remain unmapped, unseen, and undiscovered. We’re talking about 361 million square kilometers (139 million square miles) of water, which accounts for little more than 70% of the entire area of the planet.

So there’s still a lot to discover on our own planet!

In the Great Barrier Reef, a diver named Kristian Laine came across a male manta ray unlike any other.

Pink Manta-Ray
Image credits: Kristian Laine

Kristian Laine, an underwater photographer, was recently out diving off the shore of Lady Elliot Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. He was photographing the water animals when he came upon such an unexpected picture that he initially assumed his camera had broken. Kristian Laine was approached for an interview by Bored Panda.

Laine was filming a group of male manta rays going for a female manta ray when he saw one that was different from the others. Unlike most manta rays, which are black on top and white underside, this large fish was black on top but pink underneath.

“At first, I noticed a manta train of 7 manta rays surrounding a bommie on Lady Elliot Island, and they were around 12 meters deep, so I waited for the appropriate opportunity to hold my breath and dive down,” Kristian explained. “When I was at eye level with the pink fish, I looked through the lens and locked eyes with it. I first spotted its pink skin when I fired my strobes to capture a shot; I had no clue there were any pink mantas in the world. “I was perplexed, thinking my strobes were faulty or doing something strange.”

To everyone’s amazement, this manta ray was black and pink instead of the normal black and white.

Pink Manta-Ray
Image credits: Kristian Laine

It turns out that this is Inspector Clouseau, the world’s only known pink manta ray with a skin gene mutation.

Pink Manta-Ray
Image credits: Kristian Laine

Laine stated that he had no notion these unusual creatures could be pink. At first, his misunderstanding led him to believe that his camera’s strobes were broken. Closer scrutiny revealed that his eyes were not misleading him—it was an authentic pink manta ray, prompting him to capture photographs.

“[The pink manta ray] seemed serene. I recall staring into the large fish’s eyes and feeling as if it was smiling (or, at least, very friendly). The entire exchange lasted around 20 to 30 minutes.” Kristian elaborated. “I dipped down numerous times, not really appreciating how remarkable the uncommon species actually is but I accidentally timed my dives in a manner that I got to obtain around 5 decent images of it engaging with the manta train and pursuing the female. I suppose the pink manta was often first or second in line to the female, defeating other males in the process.”

The underwater photographer happened to come upon a rare pink manta ray dubbed Inspector Clouseau, who plays the clumsy investigator in the Pink Panther films. Ryan Jeffery discovered the pink manta ray in 2015, according to National Geographic. It is said to be the only suck manta ray in the world, and the pink animal has only been spotted 10 times in the previous five years.

Ryan Jeffery discovered it in 2015, and it is thought to have been spotted no more than ten times in total.

Pink Manta-Ray
Image credits: Kristian Laine

Scientists believe its pink skin is caused by a genetic abnormality in melanin expression.

Pink Manta-Ray
Image credits: Kristian Laine

Laine spent around 30 minutes swimming among the manta rays and photographing them. The serene bubble-gum pink manta ray didn’t appear to mind his presence, as it maintained polite eye contact with the photographer. It nearly appeared to be enjoying the attention and smiling.

“I didn’t know the pink ocean monster even existed, and as I indicated, I simply assumed my strobes were acting up,” Kristian said of the incident. I didn’t see it until after the swim when I chance to search for a photo of the unusual fish known as Inspector Clouseau #900, and I saw that this manta had the same markings as the one I engaged with and shot. I quickly returned to check on my camera. You have no idea how much my mouth dropped when I understood what I had just observed, and for such a long time and all by myself. It was a memorable day for me.”

A genetic defect, according to scientists, is responsible for the manta ray’s rose hue. They initially assumed it was related to a skin illness or, potentially, its nutrition. However, in 2016, a skin sample from a manta ray was collected and it was revealed that there had a genetic abnormality in its melanin expression. The most likely reason is erythrism, a disorder in which the skin’s color turns reddish. It is similar to other well-known genetic mutations such as albinism (whereby the skin is pale white).

Bored Panda has asked Kristian what the most difficult part of capturing these peeks into the lives of pink manta rays was for him. “The biggest problem was holding my breath while freediving to around a 12-meter depth with a massive buoyant camera setup and timing it at the same time to be in a good place at the correct moment,” he added. Also, to calm my thrill about 7 manta rays mating. When you’re freediving, everything occurs so quickly.”

Kristian is now planning overseas excursions as well as some advanced photography. One of his goals is to take images that have never been seen by the general audience before.

Kristian Laine is an Australian diver and photographer. He began with landscape photography before moving on to animals for the added challenge. He had to give up surfing due to a back injury, but he was determined to find a method to go back into the sea. He saw some stunning images of sea turtles one day and realized he wanted to try aquatic photography. You can learn more about Kristian’s photography and see more of his work on his website and Instagram.

What are some unusual creatures you’ve seen? Please let us know in the comments!

Source Credit Bored Panda


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