Manta rays like hanging out with their mates
A five-year study in Indonesian waters has confirmed that wild-roaming reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) form selective bonds with other rays, providing evidence of structured social relationships.
Dwarfing humans who are lucky enough to swim near them, mantas are the largest rays in the ocean, with two recognised species – the reef manta and the giant manta (Manta birostris).
The reef mantas swim at shallow-water feeding and cleaning sites, and their appeal to divers is starting to disrupt their natural behaviour. Combined with climate change, plastic pollution, fishing nets and fisheries that target them for their gills – prized in traditional Chinese medicine – this is threatening the species’ survival.
Robert Perryman from Macquarie University, Australia, and colleagues sought to understand the rays’ social structure to help predict their movements, mating patterns and response to humans to inform conservation and ecotourism.
“Social relationships are something that might be quite easily disturbed by human tourists who have good intentions but may inadvertently disrupt natural social behaviours,” Perryman explains.
The research is published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology
Read Natalie Parletta’s full story in Cosmos.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons