Key environmental factors influencing manta ray behavior identified

Oct 03, 2012

Manta rays are more likely to gather together under either a new or a full moon, according to new research published Oct 3 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Fabrice Jaine and colleagues at the University of Queensland.

The research identifies environmental factors that predict the abundance and behavior of manta rays at Lady Elliott Island in the . The authors comment that knowing these factors is important for conservation efforts, "especially in the context of a and with targeted fisheries increasingly threatening manta ray populations in various parts of the world."

Enlisting the help of volunteer SCUBA divers and tour operators on the island for a '' approach, the authors monitored the relative abundance of manta rays indulging in three types of behavior: foraging for food, cleaning by smaller fish and cruising, and correlated these with various environmental factors.

Their results show that manta rays visit specific sites around the island for specific activities. Aside from cleaning at dedicated 'cleaning stations', known to be an important activity for manta rays, foraging was the predominant activity at 5 of the 7 sites surveyed, and was the only activity during which large groups of 80 or more rays clustered together. At other sites, rays were more likely to indulge in cleaning or cruising behaviors in addition to foraging. The overall number of manta rays at the island was higher in autumn and winter, around the new and full moon, and when wind speeds were lower, according to the study.

The authors suggest that these results could be applied to understand the distribution of manta ray populations around the world, and could be extended to other large species for which can be relied on to observe and gather data.

Explore further: Research helps steer mites from bees

More information: Jaine FRA, Couturier LIE, Weeks SJ, Townsend KA, Bennett MB, et al. (2012) When Giants Turn Up: Sighting Trends, Environmental Influences and Habitat Use of the Manta Ray Manta alfredi at a Coral Reef. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046170

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists target manta ray mysteries

May 01, 2007

Manta rays are hard to miss —big, black and stretching up to seven metres wide, but scientists are still in the dark about the world's largest ray.

Majestic manta ray designated vulnerable species

Nov 15, 2011

Diving with the majestic manta ray is an eco-tourist’s dream come true that may soon be experienced only by viewing pictures and videos of the shark family’s graceful giants.

Shark rules need teeth, groups tell IUCN

Sep 04, 2012

The Wildlife Conservation Society and over 35 government agency and NGO partners participating in IUCN's World Conservation Congress this week are urging the world's governments to take urgent steps to save ...

The shark, a predator turned prey

Nov 25, 2011

Sharks may strike terror among swimmers at the beach but the predators are increasingly ending up as prey, served up in fish-and-chips shops, sparking concern among environmentalists.

Recommended for you

Research helps steer mites from bees

Sep 19, 2014

A Simon Fraser University chemistry professor has found a way to sway mites from their damaging effects on bees that care and feed the all-important queen bee.

Bird brains more precise than humans'

Sep 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —Birds have been found to display superior judgement of their body width compared to humans, in research to help design autonomous aircraft navigation systems.

User comments : 0