Enormous PINK manta ray dubbed Inspector Clouseau is spotted off the coast of Australia

Animals

An extremely rare pink manta ray called Inspector Clouseau has been photographed off the coast of an Australian Island.

The 11-foot male reef manta ray is the only pink specimen of his species known to exist and was first identified in 2015.

He got his name from the bumbling detective from the famed Pink Panther movie franchise.

His unique colouration is authentic but harmless and likely to be the result of a genetic mutation similar to albinism, experts believe.

The 11-foot male reef manta ray is the only pink specimen of his species known to exist and was first identified in 2015

The 11-foot male reef manta ray is the only pink specimen of his species known to exist and was first identified in 2015

The extremely rare pink manta ray called Inspector Clouseau (pictured) has been photographed off the coast of an Australian Island

The extremely rare pink manta ray called Inspector Clouseau (pictured) has been photographed off the coast of an Australian Island

The two-tonne marine beast lives around Lady Elliot Island and a series of stunning photographs were taken by a bemused Finnish photographer called Kristian Laine.

Clouseau is monitored by Project Manta, an Australian organisation, which attempts to learn how the bizarre colouration came to be.

Mr Laine said: ‘I have read multiple different answers, they have analysed a sample of his skin and they have changed their theories many times and still don’t seem to know for sure.

‘I think the latest theory is that it’s some sort of a genetic mutation causing a pink of melanin to be expressed.’

Mr Laine’s theory is in agreement with leading experts who say the most likely explanation is a phenomenon called erythrism.

Clouseau is monitored by Project Manta, an Australian organisation, which attempts to learn how the bizarre colouration came to be. It is thought to be a genetic mutation called erythrism

Clouseau is monitored by Project Manta, an Australian organisation, which attempts to learn how the bizarre colouration came to be. It is thought to be a genetic mutation called erythrism

Mr Laine posted pictures of Inspector Clouseau on his Instagram account. He said: 'It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to ten sightings since the first sighting in 2015'

Mr Laine posted pictures of Inspector Clouseau on his Instagram account. He said: ‘It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to ten sightings since the first sighting in 2015′

This is similar to melanism and albinism which causes some animal species to appear black and white, receptively.

Erythrism is a genetic mutation which alters how the body produces melanin, the chemical in skin which creates colour.

In some animals, it can create an unusual reddish hue, but it also has the potential to turn an animal pink.

Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Louisiana’s Nicholls State University in the US, told National Geographic: ”Having seen other pigmentation-related mutations in fishes, it’s not completely unexpected that this exists, but it’s really cool to see regardless.’

Mr Laine posted pictures of Inspector Clouseau on his Instagram account.

He said: ‘It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to ten sightings since the first sighting in 2015.

‘I felt amazed afterwards but also felt like when I was in its eye level I felt like he was smiling at me.

‘He was big and I got into a touch range but obviously didn’t touch, I was super close, about a metre at best.

‘The whole encounter lasted for about 20 – 30 minutes and he was part of a ma.t.ing manta train that was just circling around a cleaning station.’