14 Pink Animals That Wow and Woo

axolotl mexican salamander portrait underwater
izanbar / Getty Images

Ah, pink. The color associated with 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. Nonetheless, we say leave pink alone. We've gathered up some of the planet's more curious critters that come in various shades of magenta, fuchsia, coral, and rose.

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Roseate Spoonbill

pink bird with spoonshaped bill in water, roseate spoonbill in the water

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images

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. The color of the spoonbill results from its diet of crabs and shrimp. 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, full legal protection against hunting was enacted, and there are now over 1,000 nesting pairs in Florida.

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Pink Katydid

Pink Katydid walking on a vine

Hans Neleman / Getty Images

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 and that green insects changed their colors with the autumn leaves for protection.

American entomologist and myrmecologist William Morton Wheeler rejected this theory. Based on finding bright pink katydid nymphs in the prairies of Wisconsin and Illinois during July 1907, he suggested a genetic root to the condition. Wheeler compared the state to albinism. For the first time, pink katydids became recognized as genetic "mutants" in the scientific literature. 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.

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Bargibant's Pygmy Seahorse

white seahorse with rounded belly and pink protrusions in near center of picture blending in with the pink fan coral it anchored to with tail

Glen MacLarty / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Bargibant's seahorse (or pygmy seahorse) lives exclusively on fan corals and are such masters of disguise (hence their lovely hues that match the pink of the coral) that they went unnoticed until a researcher found one while studying coral in a lab. The nodules on the seahorse even match the buds on the coral.

This tiny Hippocampus bargibanti comes from the family Syngnathidae and measures a mere 1/2 to 1 inch in length. Because of their minuscule size to their snout and mouth, they survive on particles of food brought by the current.

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Web-Footed Gecko

light colored gecko lizard with almost translucent appearance, pink appears beneath the skin as do darker patches on forehead and hind legs standing on desert sand, web footed sand gecko

Stefan.Kuemmel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

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. Additional defense mechanisms 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 reptile is that it does not have eyelids and thus must lick its eyeballs to keep them moist, proving that the animal world is stranger (and even more enjoyable) than fiction.

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Orchid Mantis

small grasshopper like insect that appears to be a white and pink orchid flower

ArtThailand / Shutterstock

In 1879, Australian journalist James Hingsley returned from Indonesia with stories of a carnivorous pink 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 lured insects to their deaths, scientists were surprised to find that the mantises 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 bright bug-eating flower bugs.

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Domestic Pigs

pink pig standing on grass, grazing with tongue out

cgering / Getty Images

Some domestic 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 compelling 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.

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Sea Stars

numerous sea stars colored from a light pink to maroon on the sea floor

Makri / Pixabay

There are around 2,000 different species of sea stars, and they come in a range of colors, including pink, which help them camouflage or scare off predators. Find sea stars living in oceans all over the planet, from tropical habitats to the cold seafloor. Marine scientists have adopted the challenging task of renaming these charming echinoderm "sea stars" instead of the common starfish.

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Elephant Hawk Moth

brown moth with pink markings on plant with red leaves

Gale Hampshire / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This pink and olive green moth — 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. The colors help them attract a mate in the dark, and during the day, they hide among the bright pinks of the blossoms on their favorite foods: willowherbs and fuchsias. Hawkmoths 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 miles per hour.

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Amazon River Dolphin

The Amazon river pink dolphin with speckled skin pokes snout of water

chem7 / Flickr

The Amazon river dolphin — also known as the boutu, boto, or bufeo — has the distinction of being the largest of the freshwater dolphins and happen to turn pink as they age. Young dolphins sport grey coats. Unlike most animals, the pink color comes from scrapes and other wounds. Particularly aggressive males have more uniformly pink bodies. Scientists postulate that the color also relates to water temperature and clarity, as well as the geographic location.

In 2018, IUCN listed Amazon river dolphins as endangered. Primary threats include the use of the dolphins for fish bait, fishing with explosives, and contamination of the river water by mining operations.

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Axolotl

pink Axolotl glows under water in dark sea
Axolotl.

Getty Images / John Gancalosi

Check out the most charming salamander in all of the salamander world, the pink Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), also known as the Mexican walking fish. They do come in other colors such as white, black, yellow, and green. White axolotls always have the pink fringed gills. Black axolotls have gills of blue.

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.

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Sea Anemone

anemone with numerous pink tentacles

Selena N. B. H. / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Named after the terrestrial flower that is equally showy, the sea anemone comes in a rainbow of dazzling colors, pink being among the loveliest. The color of the sea anemone depends on where they call home. If their host is a coral or sponge, they trend toward vibrant. In a more drab environment like a rock, muted colors reign. But this creature that's related to coral and jellyfish is more than just a pretty flowery glob; the anemone has some surprising traits. For example, they are carnivorous, can live to be 50 years old, and some of them can grow as large as 6 feet.

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Pink Hairy Squat Lobster

pink fuzzy marine crustacean wanders in ocean

Subaluna / Shutterstock

Part Dr. Seuss, part arachnophobe's nightmare, this beguiling marine crustacean known as the “pink hairy squat lobster” (Lauriea siagiani) is not a lobster at all. Also called a fairy crab, the "lobster" belongs to the group of crabs called Anomurans and is just a half-inch long. The pink color allows it to camouflage perfectly on the pink giant barrel sponges the squat lobster calls home.

See one in action in the video below.

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Nudibranch

pink nudibranch with tentacles branching like trees along the perimeter of the body in the dark of the deep sea.

Sean Murray / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The beautiful pink Tritoniopsis elegans, a marine gastropod mollusk that is often confused with sea slugs, first was scientifically discovered in the Red Sea. The range of this nudibranch spans the western Indo-Pacific. Of all the wildly beautiful traits that these creatures possess, their color is perhaps the most remarkable. Ranging in a spectrum from soft and candy-colored to the neon rainbow, they have evolved these hues for means of both camouflages — when matching their environment — and warning.

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Flamingo

Two pink flamingo heads touching beaks with another flamingo body in background

jinterwas / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

We couldn't do a gallery of pink animals and not include the most famous pink creature. 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 primarily because of 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 flamingoes group in flocks that can number in the hundreds of thousands, a flamingo picks a single mate and generally remains monogamous for life.