World's only pink manta ray returns
THE world's only pink manta ray has been spotted again at Lady Elliot Island.
The manta ray with a very unusual shading on its underbelly has been nicknamed Clouseau after the bumbling inspector from the Pink Panther.
It was first seen by a group of divers off Lady Elliot Island in October and almost a year later has returned to the island north-east of Bundaberg.
Manta rays are typically grey to black on their dorsal (upper) side and white on their ventral (underside), however, the underbelly of this particular specimen is a distinct shade of pink.
Clouseau was spotted on Tuesday by a surprised group of divers at the Lighthouse Bommie.
Project Manta lead scientist Kathy Townsend confirmed, by its unusual colour, it was the same manta that graced the waters a year ago.
"Identification is confirmed by the manta ray's distinctive under markings, comparable to human finger prints,” she said.
The "teenage” male has not been seen since last year and Dr Townsend said it was exciting to see him return to the area.
"Last year we thought he may have a skin disease but from the photos and video it looks more like pink pigmentation.”
The researcher said she was eager to get a skin sample as the specific cause of the colouration still remained unknown.
Project Manta has identified more than 800 individual rays on the East Coast of Australia and about 90% of those have been spotted in the waters surrounding Lady Elliot Island.
The identification comes from photos and citizen scientists who send them images and sighting information.
In the meantime, people can keep an eye out for the pink manta ray and send photos of its belly to firstname.lastname@example.org.