New Study Confirms A World-First International Migration Of Reef Manta Rays - Forbes

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The whooshing sound from the chopper astir drowned retired the thoughts Janneman Conradie, Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) aviator and tract researcher, had arsenic helium looked down the lens of his camera and spotted a reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) successful what helium thought was the incorrect situation for them.

Almost drowned retired that surprise. But not quite.

Janneman Conradie, Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) aviator and tract researcher, was amazed the ... [+] archetypal clip helium saw a reef manta ray during an aerial transect astatine the Sardine Run, which takes spot each twelvemonth on the Wild Coast of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

Marine Megafauna Foundation

Nothing could support the astonishment contained erstwhile helium spotted the majestic predator during an aerial transect astatine the Sardine Run, which takes spot each twelvemonth on the Wild Coast of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. Hailed arsenic 1 of the world's astir spectacular marine events, the migration of silvery sardines starts disconnected the chill waters successful the confederate portion of the African continent wherever they travel unneurotic to signifier into hundreds of ample chaotic shoals. This swirling wide past “runs” northeast to the lukewarm waters of the Indian Ocean, the gigantic waves of this tiny food accompanished by legions of predators similar sharks, dolphins, Cape Gannets, cormorants, seals, and more. However, aft 100 days of flying (which led to a survey clip of a whopping 335 hours), helium was convinced it was nary coincidence: “At archetypal it did not look similar the close situation for them, but with accrued sightings we had to concede that this country whitethorn successful information beryllium a nursery situation for reef mantas, with each encountered individuals being little than 2 meters successful length.”

MMF’s manta ray probe program successful Mozambique has been monitoring this confederate Mozambican colonisation for implicit 20 years, making it 1 of the longest and astir broad manta ray studies globally. Recently the squad has focused connected amended knowing wherever and however acold this taxon moves successful bid to usher effectual absorption solutions. The largest of the devil ray taxon (the Mobula genus), they’re regularly seen connected coastal and oceanic reefs passim tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Previous enactment frok MMF has recovered a steep diminution successful manta ray sightings successful Mozambique implicit the past 2 decades, highlighting it arsenic an at-risk population. Now, semipermanent monitoring and photographic contributions from the nationalist person highlighted six transboundary movements providing the archetypal grounds of connectivity betwixt reef manta ray aggregation sites successful South Africa and confederate Mozambique. This has extended the confederate scope of the reef manta ray successful Africa, connecting the longest monitored and highly susceptible colonisation of reef manta rays successful confederate Mozambique to the UNESCO World Heritage tract of iSimangaliso successful South Africa.

Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) researcher Dr. Stephanie Venables photographing a reef manta ray.

Marine Megafauna Foundation

“As highly mobile species, reef manta rays are susceptible of long-range movements, truthful it was lone a substance of clip until we documented planetary speech betwixt the waters of adjacent countries. We are thrilled to person yet confirmed this for the archetypal clip done rigorous, semipermanent probe efforts on the southeastern seashore of Africa,” says Dr. Andrea Marshall, 1 of MMF's main scientists who oversaw the project. Dr. Stephanie Venables, who besides completed her PhD thesis connected the Mozambican manta ray population, was besides excited astir the caller findings: “These cross-border movements are an important finding, arsenic they show the request for cooperative taxon absorption betwixt the neighboring countries.” Both scientists accent that this latest probe supports the Convention connected Migratory Species (CMS) listing for reef manta rays, suggesting transboundary absorption units are warranted for this wide ranging species.

What makes this find particularly unsocial is that national subject contributions from the SCUBA diving assemblage were what helped to marque it a reality! Divers constnastly uploaded photos of mantas successful South Africa to MantaMatcher.org, the open-access planetary online database for rays. This database allows for cross-referencing of determination databases utilizing automated signifier matching algorithms, which tin pb to breathtaking discoveries... similar this one. Anna Flam, planetary manager of Manta Matcher says, “Citizen subject contributions were captious to this research. The fist 2 transboundary movements were detected with nationalist submissions to Manta Matcher, showing however radical everyplace tin lend to conservation science.” Combined with opportunistic fieldwork, the researchers were capable uncover the longest the concealed lives of these elegant filter-feeders. Notable discoveries see an idiosyncratic making a instrumentality travel betwixt Zavora successful Southern Mozambique and Sodwana Bay (a full region of astatine slightest 540 miles oregon 870 kilometers) and the (one-way) question captured successful different idiosyncratic which traveled betwixt Tofo Beach, Mozambique and Sodwana Bay, South Africa successful little than 301 days - a straight-line region of 313 miles (505 kilometers). And can’t hide the reef manta rays that were seen during aerial surveys and in-water encounters astatine the yearly Sardine Run, with their tiny size of indicating a imaginable nursery situation successful the region.

Notable discoveries see the ample distances these manta rays traveled during specified a abbreviated magnitude ... [+] of time.

Marine Megafauna Foundation

“South Africa has been a missing portion of the puzzle for immoderate clip and determination is inactive a batch of enactment needed to recognize manta ray situation usage here,” says Michelle Carpenter, PhD campaigner astatine the University of Cape Town. Dalhousie University PhD pupil Nakia Cullain, who is besides manager of MMF’s southernmost tract presumption for manta rays astatine Zavora, agrees: “Although we are conscionable opening to brushwood the aboveground of these movements, these findings are a immense measurement guardant successful helping america to pass the absorption and conservation of the taxon wrong confederate Africa.”

The study, entitled “Southward scope hold and transboundary movements of reef manta rays Mobula alfredi along the eastbound African coastline” was published successful the Journal of Fish Biology successful December 2022 and tin beryllium accessed here.

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