Consider these blushing beauties a love letter from Mother Nature..
Ah, pink. The color associated with the sweetness, softness, and romance may not be a color at all. Or at least according to some scientists who say that pink is not a real wavelength of light – what we see is the product of our wishful brains blending red and violet wavelengths together. Try telling that to My Little Pony.
Nonetheless, we say leave pink alone. And in fact, let's celebrate it! There's no better time to honor the prettiest color that may or may not exist than during February – the month of all things rosy-hued. So we've gathered up some of the planet's more curious critters that come in various shades of magenta, fuschia, coral and rose to pitch some woo.
First in the line-up, pictured above, is the most charming salamander in all of salamander world, Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum
), also known as the Mexican walking fish
. Not only are these amphibians just ridiculously cute, but they never undergo metamorphosis and thus stay in larval form their entire lives. Plus, they have super healing powers that allow them to do things like regenerate limbs! Rock on, Axolotl.
2. Pink katydid
First described in 1874, pink katydids have inspired more than a century of discussion over the hows and whys of their incredible hue
. At the turn of the 20th century, Harvard entomologist Hubbard Scudder suggested that the pink coloring could be seasonal; that green insects changed their colors with the autumn leaves for protection. But having found bright pink katydid nymphs in the prairies of Wisconsin and Illinois during July in 1907, American entomologist and myrmecologist, William Morton Wheeler, rejected this theory, suggesting instead that the condition was genetic. For the first time, pink katydids were recognised as genetic "mutants" in the scientific literature, and Wheeler compared the condition to albinism. Entomologists now believe they've confirmed that Wheeler was right
. Whatever the reason, we're happy that there are such things as pink katydids in the world.
3. Roseate spoonbill
While flamingos may be the poster children for pink animals, we couldn't pass up the beautifully quirky roseate spoonbill, a gorgeous pink wading bird with a charming spatulate bill. Sadly for these guys, their pink primary feathers were highly prized for use in ladies' fans in the late 19th century; by the 1930s, the once healthy Florida population had dipped to a total of only 30 to 40 breeding pairs. Fortunately for the roseate spoonbill and all of us admirers, full legal protection against hunting was enacted and there are now over 1,000 nesting pairs in Florida.
4. Bargibant's pygmy seahorse
Teeny-tiny Hippocampus bargibanti
, also known as Bargibant's seahorse (or pygmy seahorse) comes from the family Syngnathidae and measures in at a mere 1/2 to 1 inch in length. They live exclusively on fan corals and are such masters of disguise (hence their lovely hues) that they weren't discovered until a researcher found one in the midst of coral being studied in a lab. Don't worry little guy, we can't see you.
5. Web-footed gecko
Web-footed geckos can thank their strangely translucent, salmon-colored skin for hiding them so well against the reddish sands of the Namib Desert where they live. Other defense mechanism include a vocabulary of clicks, squeaks, croaks, and other sounds to scare off potential attackers; plus, the old "break off the tail" trick that all geckos have. But perhaps the strangest thing about this cutie-pie reptile is this: They have no eyelids and thus must lick their eyeballs to keep them moist, proving that the animal world is clearly stranger (and even more wonderful) than fiction.
6. Orchid mantis
In 1879, Australian journalist James Hingsley returned from Indonesia with stories of a carnivorous orchid that lured butterflies to its petals and ate them alive. As you may have guessed, it wasn't a flower he saw, it was the amazingly deceptive flower-mimicking insect Hymenopus coronatus
– the orchid mantis.
In a more recent study to determine if the orchid mantis' fancy disguise actually lured insects to their deaths, scientists were surprised to find that the mantises actually attracted more insects than real flowers did. And while other animals may camouflage with flowers to hide among and then ambush their prey, the schemes of the orchid mantis are different – they sit out alone on branches or leaves and pose as flowers rather than hiding amongst them. Nothing says "nature is intense" like clever bug-eating flower bugs.
7. Domestic pig
With domestic pigs, some pigs are black because they overproduce the pigment eumelanin, while pink pigs don't make any melanin at all and end up a "default" pink. But here's what's fascinating: Pigs evolved interesting coat colors only after domestication because of a human penchant for novelty, according to a study
looking at wild and domestic pigs. As it turns out, pink pigs would not have survived in the wild long enough – because they would be easily detected by predators – to allow for the pink-producing mutations to have occurred.
8. Sea stars
Although marine scientists have adopted the challenging task of renaming these charming echinoderms with the newfangled moniker of "sea stars," to some of us they will always be starfish. But we'll try to be correct. There are around 2,000 different species of sea star living in oceans all over the planet, from tropical habitats to the cold seafloor. They come in a range of colors that serve to camouflage or frighten – or for us, to inspire starstruck swooning.
9. Elephant hawk moth
Hi, pretty! This creature – which has the unusual distinction of being named after a mammal, a bird and an insect – is one of 1,400 species of hawk moths found across the globe. Hawk moths are the only moths able to hover in front of flowers to feed, like hummingbirds do, and are among the planet's fastest flying insects, reaching speeds of up to 12 mile per hour.
10. Amazon river dolphin
The Amazon river dolphin – also known as the boutu, boto, or bufeo – has the distinction of being the largest of the freshwater dolphins. And sadly, like all freshwater dolphins, is endangered thanks to hunting and habitat destruction. It stands apart for its incredible color which ranges from soft pink when it's young to near fuschia as it ages.
11. Pink hairy squat lobster
Part Dr. Seuss, part arachnophobe's nightmare, this beguiling marine crustacean known as the “Pink hairy squat lobster” (Lauriea siagiani
) is not really a lobster at all. Also called a fairy crab, the "lobster" belongs to the group of crabs called Anomurans, and at a mere half an inch in length may be just the cutest little crab we've ever seen. See one in action in the video below.
12. Sea anemone
Look at that beauty! Named after the terrestrial flower that is equally showy, the sea anemone comes in a rainbow of dazzling colors; pink being among the loveliest. But this creature that's related to coral and jellyfish is more than just a pretty flowery glob, the anemone has some surprising traits: They are carnivorous; they can live to be 50 years old; and some of them can reach a whopping 6 feet in size.
Well hello there, Tritoniopsis elegans
, otherwise known as a species of dendronotid nudibranch. If you're scratching your head, we understand. The nudibranch, which comes from the Latin for "naked gills," is a marine gastropod mollusk that is often confused with sea slugs. Of all the wildly wonderful traits that these creatures possess, their color is perhaps the most remarkable. Ranging in a spectrum from soft and candy-colored to neon rainbow
, they have evolved these hues for means of both camouflage – when matching their environment – and warning, as is seen in the brightly contrasting combinations that say, "Hey! Look at me! I'm poisonous, don't eat me!"
Well we couldn't do a gallery of pink animals and not include the most famous of pink creatures. So for our final blushing beauties, the epitome of pink: flamingos. Although when flamingoes first hatch they are a drab grey, they develop into glorious shades of peach and coral largely due to their diet. The red and blue-green algae they eat is chock-full of beta carotene which contains a reddish-orange pigment; and the mollusks and crustaceans flamingos favor also possess pigment-rich carotenoids.
And if their romantic color and heart-shaped kisses weren't lovey-dovey enough, consider this: Although they group together in flocks that can number in the hundreds of thousands, a flamingo picks a single mate and generally remains monogamous for life. Sweet!
14 pink animals to celebrate St. Valentine
Consider these blushing beauties a love letter from Mother Nature.