Mysterious Pink Manta Ray: Does it Really Exist?

by | Mar 1, 2020 | Underwater Photography & Filmography, About Manta Rays

A while ago, a pink manta ray was spotted in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

And of course, members of our Manta Ray Advocates community asked me for my thoughts… can a manta ray really be pink, is this a play of light, or is something else going on here?

In this article, I’ll discuss possible explanations for the manta ray appearing pink in the image.

Image Credits: Amelia Armstrong

In many years with the manta rays I’ve only seen variations of black, white, and grey coloration so I was intrigued to dive a little deeper and question:

A pink manta ray – is this for real or Fake News?

Let’s explore a couple possibilities for this manta ray abnormality.

Is this Manta Ray Pink because Colors are Different Under Water?

First, I need to point out that color changes at depth due to the density of water, and the first color to disappear is red at about 10-15 feet.

This cool video by Kendall Roberg shows how each of the colors in the spectrum transforms as you get deeper underwater.

If you’ve tried underwater photography before, you might have felt the frustration when your images come out dull and monotone.

Did you know the easiest way to re-introduce colors back is by using a red filter in front of the camera lens?

(If you are seeking additional underwater photography tips, don’t miss our Underwater Photography Guide).

Pink manta ray? It could be a photoshopped picture.

Looking at the image of the pink manta ray I wondered if a red filter was used to compensate but the other manta rays in the background look blue-ish.

Image Credit: Kristian Laine

Then the only other option is that in Photoshop post-production the pink was introduced by adding a filter onto the ventral side of the manta.

But was it? Maybe it is a pink manta after all?

Pink Manta Ray Video

Continuing to search for imagery about the mysterious pink manta ray that was more conclusive, I found this video from 2016 by Peter Fawcett where the pink manta ray appears at 0:22 seconds.

It’s spectacular to see in comparison to other mantas that the pink manta ray actually has a different colored underside!

This Pink Manta got a Name: Inspector Clouseau!

More answers were found in this short interview with Dr. Kathy Townsend who is the lead scientist with Project Manta – The Manta Rays of Australia at the University of Queensland.

The pink manta ray is called “Inspector Clouseau” which is such a clever wordplay to the legendary inspector in the movie “Pink Panther”!

It’s a healthy male first identified in 2015. Although only seen a few times Dr. Townsend’s team was able to get a skin sample from him during routine research studies at Lady Elliot Island.

In conclusion…

Yes, a pink manta ray does exist. The story is true, but the coloring on this manta ray remains a mystery.

Nature is incredible and I am always stoked when manta rays are featured in mainstream media because it means more people around the world get to know these magnificent creatures.

Learn More about the Gentle Giants of the Ocean

Learn more about manta rays with our free ebook, “Fun Facts & Figures about Manta Rays”. Though it doesn’t feature pink manta rays; if there’s such a thing, it’s not a common occurrence so we focus on reef mantas and giant oceanic mantas instead.

Download the free Ebook here.

It’s a great conversation starter for Manta Ray Advocates of all ages… and it will tell you everything you always wanted to know about mantas!

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