Friday, March 6, 2009

Pepto-Bismol-Pink Dolphin in Louisiana

This is a peculiar find. (Thanks to Dr. Melissa Palmer for the tip)

Pink the albino dolphin: Pink dolphin appears in US lake

The pink color and reddish eyes indicate albinism, an inherited condition that results in individuals lacking normal pigmentation. This special aquatic mammal drew quite a crowd when it first surfaced in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary north of the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

The dolphin was first identified by charter boat captain Erik Rue, who said it was swimming with a pod of four other dolphins. I hope this special critter makes it despite its strange coloration.

Is this first pink dolphin observed in nature?

Actually, there are pink dolphins that reside in South America in the Amazon. The boto is the largest of the river dolphins. They have different color patterns, varying from bright pink to deep grey, depending upon their age and the geographical area where they are found. In the Arauca River in Colombia, dolphins are very pink (pictured below) and very active at the surface. They tend to become more "pink" with age because their skin becomes more translucent and the blood circulating beneath their skin becomes visible. These Amazon River Botos are close relatives to the dolphins with which we are familiar from the states. However, there are a few significant morphological differences.

In addition to the higher frequency of pink coloration among populations, the Amazon River Botos have specialized teeth that are used to crush fish and heavily armored benthic organisms such as crustaceans. They also have a big hump on their head and a ridge on their back in place of a defined dorsal fin.

da Silva V (1994) Aspects of the biology of the Amazonian dolphins Genus Inia and Sotalia fluviatilis. PhD Dissertation, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 327 pp.


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