If you’ve never heard of a pink bottlenose dolphin before, we’ll forgive you: only 14 have been spotted since 1962, but the one that frequents Calcasieu Lake in Louisiana has become something of a local celebrity. Now the rare creature has been spotted in the water again by locals – and this time it appears she could be pregnant as well.
The video footage, captured by Captain Erik Rue from the Calcasieu Charter Service, shows ‘Pinky’ playing in the waves. Rue says the bottlenose dolphin was recently spotted mating, which leads him to believe there may be babies on the way (though of what color no one is very sure).
The mammal is generally believed to be an albino, but there seems to be some debate over how the dolphin got its color: a few observers think the dolphin has a different genetic condition preventing the usual grey dolphin coloring from appearing and masking the natural pinkish-red color of the mammal’s blubber.
“While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes,” senior biologist Regina Asmutis-Silvia told The Guardian back in 2009. “Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited… I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.”
There’s currently one other albino dolphin that we know of, who lives at the Taiji Whale Museum in Japan.
While there’s no official consensus among marine experts, Rue and other local visitors to the shores are just happy to catch a glimpse of the dolphin, which has gradually moved away from swimming with her mother to join other pods. “We still see her swimming almost every day in the summertime,” says Rue. “We’ve seen her a lot in the last few weeks. She looks happy and healthy.”
Albinism occurs when a gene mutation means the pigment melanin – responsible for skin, hair, and eye color – isn’t produced as it should be. While Pinky’s parents may well have looked completely normal, both of them must have carried a single copy of the necessary mutation in the same gene. For Pinky’s offspring to be the same color she would need to mate with another albino.
The condition also brings with it poor eyesight, increased sensitivity to sunlight and obviously a lack of camouflage, all reasons why albino creatures of any type are unlikely to make much of an impression on the gene pool. For those reasons, you should make the most of this new Pinky footage while you can.