Manta Ray Cognition
This project mainly focuses on finding out more about the visual abilities, social behaviour, learning and memory of giant manta rays (Manta birostris) with the largest brain of all fish.
Why this is important:
In spite of the fact that their populations are heavily fished in many countries and that they are exceptionally large-brained cartilaginous fishes, little is known about their abilities (unlike dolphins, for example).
Basically nothing is known about the sensory, learning abilities or social life of giant manta rays. They are difficult to study in their natural habitat, because their presence is often unpredictable, an experiment conducted in the wild is often expensive, and it is hard to create a well-controlled environment. Manta rays have demonstrated curiosity and interest toward divers at many tourist locations, but we do not have information what might be the effect of the presence of human on their behavior. However, their populations are decreasing due to commercial or artisanal fisheries in many countries and the species is near threatened. My neuroanatomical research on Mobulid brains and the preliminary experiments on wild manta rays in the Maldives and Ecuador suggest strong evidence that these animals live a much more complex social life than we might think, and that they have cognitive abilities only known from other large-brained animals, such as elephants or dolphins. The curiosity and interest of these animals toward humans, as well as the results of the preliminary experiments have inspired me to conduct more detailed experiments in a well-controlled environment. I have been in contact with the Atlantis Aquarium, Bahamas for several years in order to continue my experiments on the giant manta rays, which I started at the Lisbon Aquarium. The results of that research were published as the first scientific paper on a behavioral experiment conducted on a giant manta ray (Manta birostris).
Aims and Objectives
The general aim of this research is to better understand how well manta rays are able to sense the environment around them, which sensory cues are more important for them then others, how well they are able to learn and remember, compared to other fishes with much smaller brain size. How complex their social life is, how do they communicate with each other or probably with other species.
I intend to increase awareness in the public of these magnificent animals throughout these popular topics. The results of this project will also support conservation activities in many countries and better handling of captive individuals.
Oceans of the Future
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As I mentioned in my previous blog I had amazing moments with the Hawaiian manta rays during a night dive, thanks to our great host, Keller Laros, or as others call him: mantaman. I wanted to share some of those…
Research results without being able to share them with the world do not worth much……so I headed to the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS) meeting to present my work on the brain and the behavior of giant manta rays. An…
After spending countless hours observing and following around the manta rays at front of the window of the beautiful Atlantis aquarium you tend to think that you know more or less what is possible to know about these manta rays.…