Have you ever wondered how a manta ray spends it days? Scientists and divers only get a glimpse into these elusive animal’s lives when they encounter them at cleaning stations on shallow reefs. Despite increased research efforts in the last decade, scientists still know very little about the habits or daily routine of the world’s largest ray. In an effort to change all of this, researchers are now using cutting edge technology to uncover where these gentle giant’s go when they leave shallow coastal areas.
Satellite tags may help to provide the first clue. Recent tagging results from Mozambique revealed startling new insights. Despite encountering manta rays in shallow water at feeding areas and cleaning stations, it turns out that giant manta rays, Manta birostris, may spend most of their time in deep, tranquil waters. Data from some of the first satellite tags deployed in the area have revealed that some individuals may spend up to 50% of their time in waters over 50 meters and can dive to depths of up to 200 m. Presumably these giant mantas are most commonly traveling into deep waters at night to feed but the sometimes individuals will spend days at these depths without coming up to the surface.
This startling evidence is some of the first data that has come back from a new study that will track these giant’s movements around the globe at key aggregations sites. This study, partially funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation, will help scientists understand how these magnificent animals use the world oceans and how we can better protect them from the plethora of human induced threats they face.