The endangered oceanic manta ray Mobula birostris is an iconic marine creature, and however surprisingly little is known about them. Now, a look at led by KAUST researchers has provided insights into inhabitants demographics and the movement of these rays all through the Red Sea space. It moreover hints at a attainable nursery flooring off the coast of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
“There are so many unknowns about these charismatic creatures,” says Anna Knochel, a former Masters pupil at KAUST who led the enterprise beneath the supervision of Michael Berumen. “I wanted to learn more about the Red Sea manta population, but a full scientific survey would be challenging and expensive. I realized we could tap into social media for help.”
Knochel and colleagues began by collating photos and particulars of sightings they’d witnessed. They contacted Elke Bojanowski, a marine scientist and divemaster in Egypt, who granted entry to her image archives. They then reached out to members of most people who had posted photos of rays taken throughout the Red Sea space on various social media platforms. These on-line photos doubled the amount of knowledge for the enterprise.
“Like whale sharks, manta rays have unique spot patterns on their bodies; this, together with size estimates gleaned from photographs, meant that individuals could be identified,” says Knochel. “I spent weeks analyzing photographs to identify as many individuals as I could.”
The workers acknowledged 267 individuals from 395 sightings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan and Israel, from 2004 to 2021. Movements had been recorded for 21 rays sighted in a few location, along with basin-spanning migrations from one side of the Red Sea to the other. The potential of these animals to undertake long-distance actions over deep water implies that multinational cooperation will be required to protect them efficiently.
“I noticed that many of the rays were really young—they were small, and I could see juvenile males with immature sexual organs,” says Knochel. “I identified 27 young males and estimate that a further 29 were juvenile females. The young rays were regularly spotted at Sharm El-Sheikh, suggesting that the area could be a nursery ground.”
The solely totally different recognized nursery flooring for oceanic manta rays is the Flower Garden Banks, a marine sanctuary throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the place sightings of juvenile males had been confirmed in a modern paper.
“This study highlights the untapped value of the Red Sea, not just to scientists, but to all the nations surrounding its coasts,” says Berumen. “These findings will encourage further research into oceanic manta rays, and Saudi Arabia has a real chance to model best practice in terms of sustainable tourism for marine wildlife.”
The look at is revealed in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.
Anna M. Knochel et al, Crowdsourced data reveal multinational connectivity, inhabitants demographics, and doable nursery flooring of endangered oceanic manta rays throughout the Red Sea, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems (2022). DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3883
Red Sea might need a nursery for oceanic manta rays (2022, September 19)
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