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First satellite tag study for manta rays reveals habits and hidden journeys of ocean giants
Date:5/11/2012

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."

Like baleen whales and whale sharks, manta rays are filter feeders that swim through clouds of plankton with mouths agape.

The research team also found that the manta rays spent nearly all their time within Mexico's territorial waters (within 200 miles of the coastline), but only 11.5 percent of the locations gathered from the tagged rays occurred within marine protected areas. And the majority of ray locations were recorded in major shipping routes in the region; manta rays could be vulnerable 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.

In spite of its malevolent, bat-like appearance, the manta raysometimes referred to as the "devilfish"is harmless to humans and lacks the stinger of the better-known stingray. The manta ray possesses the highest brain to body ratio of all sharks and rays and gives birth to live young, usually one or two "pups" every one or two years. Manta rays are apparently declining in the Caribbean and in other tropical regions of the world's oceans, in part because they are captured for shark bait and a demand for gill rakers (small, finger-like structures that filter out the ray's minute zooplankton prey) in the traditional Chinese medicinal trade.


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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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