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Rare pink albino dolphin swims in the waters of Lake Calcasieu, Louisiana Rare pink albino dolphin swims in the waters of Lake Calcasieu, Louisiana, just north of the Gulf of Mexico, March 2, 2009. The photograph was taken by charter boat captain Erik Rue, who regularly travels through the lake. (Photo: Erik Rue/Newscom)

Pink Dolphin at Play

Rare albino dolphin spotted in the waters of Louisiana lake

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null
(Map: Jim McMahon)
(Map: Jim McMahon)

Boaters in the busy waters of Louisiana have been double-checking their vision lately. They can't quite believe what they see at first glance.
 
There is a bright pink bottlenose dolphin swimming in the waters of Calcasieu Lake. The rare albino dolphin was first spotted in the shipping waterway in June 2007.

The pink mammal was just a calf, or baby, then. Now that it has grown up a bit, the dolphin is making more public appearances.

"We see him on a pretty regular basis," boat crewman Roddy Blackburn told the Associated Press recently.

It's not uncommon to see bottlenose dolphins in this area. They feed in the deep water and ride on top of waves created by boats.

But most of those dolphins are the typical gray color. When this bubblegum-hued dolphin comes out to play with its friends, it is hard to miss.

The dolphin is an albino. That means its skin and eyes are mostly color free. Usually, plants and animals get their distinctive coloring from pigments, or colored chemical compounds that absorb light. Albino animals are born without pigment in their skin.

Since the albino dolphin's skin has no pigment, it looks pink in the sunlight as the color of blood under the skin becomes visible. The dolphin also has red eyes, another trait common in albinos.

Michael Harbison, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist, has seen the pink dolphin many times. He thinks the dolphin splits its time between the Gulf of Mexico and the lower 10 miles of Calcasieu Lake.

According to Harbison, only 14 albino dolphins have been reported worldwide. This is the third one sighted in or around the Gulf of Mexico.

There are no plans for a formal study of this albino bottlenose. Biologist Mandy Tumlin of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says she hopes the public will take part in studying the pink mammal. Detailed reports and pictures from the public will help scientists track the animal.

Boaters who encounter the rare mammal should stay at least 50 yards from it. Tumlin says they should also limit the dolphin-watching sessions to a half hour. Biologists don't want humans to disturb the pink dolphin and its companions.

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