No, it's not a photoshop job - these pictures of a pink manta ray off Australia's coast are 100% legit.

Freediver and underwater photographer Kristian Laine has captured images of the manta with a pink underbelly - instead of the usual white colouring - floating off Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The latest images from Laine have now been published in Australian Geographic.

The three metre manta - named locally 'Inspector Clouseau' after the detective from the Pink Panther - was first spotted in the waters in 2015 and photographed by dive instructor Ryan Jeffrey.

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The manta has a pink belly but a white birthmark.

Initially, scientists believed the colouring to be due to a skin infection but that's no longer thought to be the case.

The University of Queensland's Project Manta is studying the animal. Project Manta's Asia Armstrong said a Facebook post that because of the white birthmark and stability of colour, they can rule out diet as a cause.

"The working theory is that it is just a different and very unique expression of the melanin, but that is still to be confirmed."

“Inspector Clouseau” sure is getting the attention he deserves! Thanks for sharing Manta Trust! We head off to Lady...

Posted by Project Manta - The manta rays of Australia on Wednesday, 12 February 2020

However, not everyone is convinced about the authenticity of the images.

"Ok, I'm calling it. Fake," said one Facebook user, commenting on a post shared by Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.

"Things you can do with a red filter," another commented, referring to underwater camera filters which can affect the hue of objects captured underwater.

Laine told Australia Geographic his first sighting of the manta left him confused.

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"When I went through my photos in my camera right after the encounter I was looking through my viewfinder and was thinking it's weird that one of the mantas looked pink," he told the magazine.

"I actually thought my strobes were playing up, making the manta look pink."

It wasn't until the next day at Lady Elliot Island where Laine saw photo of Inspector Clouseau from a previous sighting.

Laine described it a lucky encounter.

"What an amazing and absolutely unforgettable encounter that was," he wrote, sharing the photos on Instagram.

When asked how he came by the manta, Laine said it was by total accident.

"Was just waiting at a bommie and about 7 mantas came there in a mating train and he was one of them."


Guy Stevens, CEO and co-founder of the UK based Manta Trust, told National Geographic the colour of the manta shouldn't affect its ability to survive.

"They are big when they are born, and they grow quite quickly in their first few years to make them large enough that only the biggest of marine predators prey on them."

Manta rays are one of the largest fish in the world, but normally have black and white colouring. The pink manta is the only one of its kind.