A photographer captured images of an “absolutely unforgettable encounter” with the only known pink manta ray in the world.
The beam – which was nicknamed Inspector Clouseau, after the detective of the Pink Panther film – it has only been seen a handful of times, and Finnish underwater photographer Kristian Laine has been fortunate enough to be within easy reach of the marine wonder.
Her stunning shots were captured near Lady Elliot Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef last year.
Reflecting on the magical moment, Kristian said: “It is very rare because I think there have only been 8-10 sightings since the first sighting in 2015.
“Later I felt amazed, but I felt like I was getting close to my eyes, it seemed to me that he was smiling at me.
“It was big and I entered a tactile range but obviously I didn’t touch myself, I was very close, at most about a meter.
“The whole meeting lasted for about 20-30 minutes and was part of a mating manta train that was circling around a cleaning station.”
Being so close to a paired train of manta rays – the stuff of dreams.
Coral reef manta rays generally tend to come in three different colors: black, white and a combination of the two. The mixed configuration is the most common, since the dark backs allow them to merge with the dark water below and a lighter lower part allows them to merge with the sunlight from above.
Why exactly Inspector Clouseau – who has a wingspan close to seven meters and weighs nearly two tons – has such a distinct pink coloration is still a bit of a mystery to scientists.
Kristian said: “I have read several different answers, they have analyzed a sample of his skin and have changed their theories many times and still do not seem to be sure.
“I think the latest theory is that it’s a kind of genetic mutation that causes the expression of a melanin rose.”