Thurman Gustin, a proud Houston denizen, and his sweetheart found themselves in the middle of an extraordinary encounter while angling in a Louisiana channel last week. Their eyes fell upon an unexpected spectacle in the cerulean waters: a duo of vivid fuchsia dolphins.
Exclaiming their surprise and admiration, Gustin confided to Madeline List from McClatchy News, “We were taken aback! ‘Good heavens, such beauty’… I was not even aware of the existence of a pink dolphin.” He abruptly halted their vessel, whipped out his cellular device, and hastily commenced documenting the remarkable scene, although he managed to film only the larger of the aquatic pair.
Gustin, still reeling from the sight, conveyed to Fox 35 Orlando’s Dani Medina, “I had never witnessed such an occurrence before and merely wished to preserve the incredible moment.”
It’s worth noting that Amazon river dolphins, indigenous to the South American continent, are intrinsically pink. However, these two exceptional marine creatures were likely albinotic bottlenose dolphins. Albinism, a result of gene mutations impacting melanin synthesis, usually renders living beings stark white due to the absence of this color-determining pigment. With albinotic dolphins, their dermal blood vessels can be discerned through their transparent skin, thus giving them a pink hue. This rarity is not confined to the aquatic sphere but extends across various animal species, although albinotic beings often grapple with survival challenges such as impaired vision. Albinism is also observed in humans, with around one in 18,000 to 20,000 Americans affected by the condition.
Local chatter suggests that the filmed dolphin could be none other than “Pinky,” a candy-colored cetacean known to grace the Gulf of Mexico waters for approximately 16 years. Without DNA testing, it’s impossible to definitively ascertain Pinky’s albinism, as per marine mammal biologist Dagmar Fertl’s statement to KHOU in 2017. However, Pinky’s rosy-hued eyes could be a telling sign of albinism, indicated by Greg Barsh, a scholar of color variation genetics, to Nicole Mortillaro of Global News in 2015. This latest sighting of the roseate dolphins was in Louisiana’s Cameron Parish, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. Pinky is a familiar sight in these parts, often noticed swimming nearby, according to an email sent by the Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network to USA TODAY’s Saman Shafiq.
Speculation arises that the second dolphin could be a progeny of Pinky. In 2016, Pinky was observed fraternizing with several males, leading to uncertainty about whether any resultant offspring would inherit her unique hue, given that her partner would need to possess the albinism gene. Even in such a case, a pink calf would only be a 50% possibility.
Fast forward to 2017, a female witness claimed to have seen a pair of pink dolphins frolicking in the Calcasieu Ship Channel, unfortunately failing to record the encounter. The following year, two radiant pink dolphins were caught on camera swimming parallel to a ship in the same channel. A Facebook poll hosted by the Louisiana television station KATC resulted in the second dolphin being christened “Brain”—an affectionate tribute to the animated duo “Pinky and the Brain.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records mention the sighting of only two other albinotic dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico—one in 1994 and another in 2003, both completely white in hue.
Gustin, a devoted angler, reminisced to USA TODAY, “I venture out fishing routinely. This was my third Louisiana expedition this year. This rare spectacle was indeed a stroke of luck. Even lifetime residents have confessed to never having witnessed anything quite like this.”