Study finds manta rays are local commuters; not long-distance travelers

June 21, 2016
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The latest studies of manta, led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego showed new facts about these wonderful marine inhabitants. The marine ecologists from California studied satellite-tracked manta rays to shed light on the lives of these mysterious ocean creatures Manta birostris.

The scientists for San Diego University decided to know more about manta rays (Manta birostris) for better understanding their travel through the ocean. Manta birostris can live for over 40 years, and their wingspan can reach 23 feet (about 7 m).

The marine biologists published their findings in the journal Biological Conservation, and their article is full of interesting facts, earlier unknown even for manta researchers. The Californian biologists during their research work tagged and collected muscle tissue samples from the rays at four different sites in the Indo-Pacific separated by 373-8,078 miles.

The latest research of manta rays in California

The tagging method gave to biologists rich data: during six months the tags were recording mantas movements, what gave to scientists a lot of useful information. Along with genetic and stable isotope analyses on the collected muscle tissues, the marine biologists found that manta rays remained close to their tagged location, and are very likely distinct subpopulations with very limited connectivity between regions.

Earlier, the scientists assumed manta rays to be long-distance travelers like other vertebrates in the ocean. But Scripps Oceanography PhD candidate Joshua Stewart explained new fact:

“These animals are showing a remarkable degree of residency behavior compared to the migrations we were expecting. While mantas do make the occasional long-distance movement, it appears that the norm is to stay put. This means that any one population of mantas is highly susceptible to fisheries and other human impacts, but that local populations are also more easily protected.”

 

Stewart and his team at National Geographic Crittercam are conducting a follow-up study to affix cameras to the vertebrates to directly observe their feeding behaviors and diet.

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