LA environmental officials have confirmed that a dolphin spotted by boaters is, in fact, a rare pink specimen that likely got its color from this rare condition.
The animal kingdom is full of surprises, but did you ever expect to see a pink dolphin? According to a report from National Geographic, Pinky, the famed Louisiana bottlenose dolphin that looks more like a cartoon character was spotted in state waters this week and has been making a splash on social media.
Pinky is an albino dolphin, and was first seen in 2007 in the Calcasieu River by charter captain Erik Rue. Pinky’s red eyes and blood vessels show through its pale skin, creating a bubblegum-pink hue.
Albinism is a condition in which an organism’s skin completely lacks the pigment melanin, which is responsible for hair, eye, and skin color. In individuals with albinism, there is a shortage or a complete lack of melanin, giving them a pale appearance.
Albinism is caused by a mutation to one of several genes, and in many cases these genes are recessive. Pinky’s parents likely appeared as normal grey-colored bottlenose dolphins, but passed along the gene that prevented the production of melanin in their offspring.
Pinky has been patrolling Louisiana waters for eight years, but she is susceptible to risks that don’t concern other dolphins. Melanin provides protection from ultraviolet radiation, which can damage skin cells and cause severe sunburns. It can also cause problems with vision. Albino creatures are rare in the wild due to these handicaps, but Pinky seems to be surviving in Louisiana just fine.
Pinky was reportedly spotted mating recently, spurring speculation about whether or not she will produce more albino offspring. If her mate also carried the gene for albinism, there would be a 50 percent chance that we would see more pink dolphins popping up.