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Louisiana river’s pink dolphin ‘Pinky’ returns for Labor Day

Over the long weekend celebrating Labor Day, Pinky the dolphin – originally spotted in 2007 by Captain Erik Rue – was reportedly seen happily cutting loose in the waterways of Louisiana, specifically in Calcasieu Lake. Pinky is – you guessed it – a pink dolphin from tip to tail and it truly does look like something out of a fairy tale.

Since Captain Rue’s first sighting of Pinky, he has been able to capture plenty of video of the rare animal. Below is a video from 2011.

There are a couple theories floating around in regard to the rare pink hue of the ocean’s most playful creature. However the pink color is most likely the result of Pinky’s inability to produce the skin pigment known as melanin. Melanin gives dolphins their gray color. This disorder, widely known as albinism, affects all mammals. The reason Pinky is the only documented pink ‘fully’ pink dolphin is because of the rarity of the circumstance – both parents needed to have carried the genes for the disorder, and because it is most often a recessive trait, the parents probably still had their gray hue.

OK. So when humans have albinism, they are extremely pale. So why is this dolphin pink and not white?
Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute spoke with the Dodo:

The pink color is just blood at the skin’s surface, like when humans flush or blush. Same phenomenon. ‘Regular’ bottlenose dolphins do this all the time too, but you can’t tell, because their normal skin pigment is gray.

While there are dolphins with splotches of pink, Pinky is very different since she is all pink. The Amazon River Dolphin pictured below still looks strikingly different. It has been speculated that Pinky has been seen mating, which means there’s possibility she might be pregnant, though chances of her birthing pink babies are exponentially smaller since she would need to find a mate also carrying the albino gene. Maybe there’s a club for albino dolphins.