The long journeys taken by the endangered Manta ray comes into the light for the first time with the help of satellite tag.
Satellite telemetry has helped to conduct the first study on manta rays . Recently, the study has been released. Tracking the long journeys, of the giant, up to 25 feet wide manta ray.
The manta ray, which is currently listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), is increasingly threatened by fishing and accidental capture.
“Almost nothing is known about the movements and ecological needs of the manta ray, one of the ocean’s largest and least-known species,” said Dr. Rachel Graham, lead author on the study and director of WCS’s Gulf and Caribbean Sharks and Rays Program. “Our real-time data illuminate the previously unseen world of this mythic fish and will help to shape management and conservation strategies for this species.”
The research was done by attaching satellite trackers to manta rays off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Specifically onto six individuals, of which one is male, four are females and one is juvenile.
“The satellite tag data revealed that some of the rays traveled more than 1,100 kilometers during the study period,” said Dr. Matthew Witt of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. “The rays spent most of their time traversing coastal areas plentiful in zooplankton and fish eggs from spawning events.”
Manta rays are filter feeders, like whale sharks, and baleen whales. Eating by swimming through clouds of plankton and fish eggs with their mouths open, and filtering them from the water.
The research found that while they spent almost all their time in the coastal waters, they were only in marine protected areas 11.5 percent of the time. With the majority spent in areas used as major shipping routes, leaving them open to ship strikes.
“Studies such as this one are critical in developing effective management of manta rays, which appear to be declining worldwide,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giant Program.
Their numbers have been decreasing around the world. Largely because of being caught for shark bait, and demand for their filters, from traditional chinese medicine.
Manta rays are circumglobal and are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters, although oceanic manta rays can be found in temperate waters. Oceanic mantas reside in deepwater, pelagic zones, making periodic visits to cleaning stations at seamounts and coastal reefs. They are generally dark on the upper surface, ranging from black to greyish-blue and brown, with pale undersides; individuals have a unique pattern of blotches and scars that can be used to identify them. The large, cavernous mouth is situated at the front of the body and contains 18 rows of teeth on the lower jaw.
Regardless of how they look, they are harmless to humans.