When images of a pink dolphin spotted in an inland Louisiana lake appeared in news feeds recently, I confess I had to do a check to see if it was fake news. Surely nature doesn’t produce bubblegum pink dolphins? I suspected something fishy was going on with Photoshop. But after a through investigation, I’m delighted to reveal that not only does this pink dolphin exist, but there are also plenty more of them.
The dolphin making waves on social media was spotted by Charter boat captain Erik Rue, in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary, north of the Gulf of Mexico. Rue reported that it was swimming with other non-pink dolphins and that it was “quite beautiful and stunningly pink.” It looked, he added, like it had swum straight out of a paint booth. The dolphin in question is thought to be a very rare albino bottlenose dolphin. Only 14 dolphins with this rare genetic condition have been recorded since 1962, and the albino condition also manifests in redness around the eyes and visible blood vessels, as well as less visible health issues such as vision problems. In fact this dolphin is thought to be one nicknamed Pinky, first spotted in the lake in 2007 when she was a baby. The fact that she has been seen as a happy and healthy adult is in itself a cause for celebration.
This genetic quirk isn’t the only way that nature can produce a pink dolphin however. The Sousa chinensis species of dolphin is mainly found along the coastline throughout the Indo-Pacific and Asia, and are also known as the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin, or the Chinese White Dolphin. The dolphins in this species are not born pink however – their colouring gradually changes with age, with the pink first appearing as spots on their grey bodies. A fully pink dolphin of this species is most definitely a stately old-timer. Sadly the Sousa chinensis dolphin is in danger due to development of its natural hunting grounds. To read more about them, and efforts to preserve their numbers, check out this article.