ON FRIDAY, October 20, a group of divers on Lady Elliot Island spotted a manta ray at the Lighthouse Bommie, a popular dive sight for Manta Ray encounters, with a very unusual shading on its underbelly.
Manta rays are typically grey to black on their dorsal (upper) side and white on their ventral (underside), however, the underbelly of this particular individual looked to be a very distinct shade of pink.
Dive Instructor Ryan Jeffery was quick to grab his camera and captured these fantastic shots of the manta ray where you can clearly see the pink belly.
After speaking with Kathy Townsend, lead scientist for Project Manta, she acknowledged that "We have never seen this particular individual before, so from now on I am sure he will be known as "Clouseau".
He has been aptly named after Jaques Clouseau, the bumbling inspector from the Pink Panther.
The specific cause of the colouration remains unknown, however after receiving a number of comments on Facebook and email, Aoife Ni Foghlu stated that "a possible reason for the colouration is that Cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises often turn pink under their bellies when they feed or get excited.
This is caused by the blood vessels coming closer to the surface".
Project Manta has identified 867 individuals on the East Coast of Australia and approximately 90% of those have been spotted in the waters surrounding Lady Elliot Island.
The identification comes from photo-identification and citizen scientists who send them photos and sightings information.
In the meantime, please keep an eye out for the pink manta ray and send any photos of manta rays' bellies to email@example.com.
We hope that someone will come across "Clouseau" again, with or without this unique pink colour.