By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
Why is this manta pink? And why does it matter?
A rare pink manta ray was spotted off the Great Barrier Reef the other other day, and soon, his photo was everywhere. Inspector Clouseau, as he’s called, likely has a condition called erythrism. Like albino and melanistic animals, somewhere in his genome is probably a mutation that makes his skin pigment turn an abnormal color—pink in this case.
OK, so a pink manta ray is pretty cool in my opinion. So are “strawberry” leopards, “blonde” zebras, yellow cardinals, blue lobsters, and black panthers. Nature is constantly surprising us, and these oddities are a big part of what inspires my curiosity about the world.
Beyond the sense of wonder, there’s scientific value in highlighting and understanding creatures like this. Researchers studying Inspector Clouseau don’t yet know for sure why he’s pink, but they’re trying to figure it out—understanding this has the potential to help them understand manta evolution more broadly. Studying albino zebras has helped scientists understand the social interactions of herds. And studying black panthers (an umbrella term for any all-black wildcat) is helping us understand the trade-offs between camouflage and communication.
These animals also bring me something else: a certain joy. They stand as nature's evidence that we don't have to color with the same box of crayons every time.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Everybody has their turn: In Kenya's Chyulu Hills, waterholes attract a huge array of animals throughout the day, says wildlife photographer Beverly Joubert. “It is unusual to see a breeding herd around here. Their movements are more limited by water availability and the needs of the youngsters,” she says. “But the bulls can travel farther and often congregate around these waterholes, shaking their massive heads at the antelope and zebras, all patiently waiting their turn to drink.”
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Today in a minute
Who’s responsible for wildlife safety? Most Americans believe companies should be held legally responsible for wildlife safety, a new poll finds, in contrast to a recent administration proposal that would absolve companies of responsibility for accidental bird deaths under a long-enacted migratory bird law. More than three in five Americans (63 percent) believe energy operators, including wind farms and solar farms, should be held accountable. The poll by the National Geographic and Morning Consult sampled 2,201 Americans.
A pangolin-coronavirus connection? There’s been no independent confirmation of the claim from Chinese researchers that the endangered pangolin could be an intermediary host for the deadly coronavirus. The potential, however, has placed increasing scrutiny on China's consumption of pangolins and the massive illegal trade in the species, as Rachel Nuwer reports for Nat Geo.
Reward offered: Authorities are offering $20,000 for information on the killings of two dolphins in Florida, one shot and the other either shot or stabbed. Nearly 30 animals have been found shot or impaled in the southeastern United States since 2002, The New York Times' Johnny Diaz reports.
We asked, you answered: Last week, after we wrote about the death of two monarch butterfly defenders in central Mexico, readers asked what they could do to help. You could start in your own back yard. “Planting milkweed (the right kind for their area!) is good,” Rachael Bale suggests. Here’s how lawns and parks offer a huge opportunity for milkweed—and monarchs.
The big takeaway
Perplexed: This is biologist Daniel Harries, deep in a cave in northeast India, with a newly found cave fish. The fish can grow a foot and a half long and is 10 times heavier than any of the 250 species found before. Harries' first thought: “I’m going to need a bigger net.” Researchers still don’t know what the fish eats or how it developed its shape, Nat Geo’s Douglas Main reports. The researchers do know the blind, eyeless fish is evolving: It has some ability to sense light.
Read: World’s largest cave fish discovered in India
In a few words
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The last glimpse
Getting close to the fish: How does a diver hang with triggerfish and wrasses, like these in French Polynesia? Step one is to hit the channels between the open ocean and the atolls, such as those in the Tuamotu Islands (above). The channels act as underwater slides for multitudes of fish. Glide along!
Read and see: 21 of the world's best diving spots