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We all love summer

By David Jiménez, 22nd March 2018

The Spanish Islands of the Canary Islands, located off the North West coast of Africa. Image © Google Maps

Summer is the best season of the year for enjoying the coasts and beaches of the Canary Islands. Every year countless tourists come to our islands to relax and catch some sun. Summer is also the best time to experience marine species that are difficult or impossible to see during the rest of the year.
One of these species is the butterfly ray Gymnura altavela, the focus of our project. Between the end of June and the beginning of October encounters with butterfly rays become more frequent.

A butterfly ray swimming off the beach of Sardina del Norte, Gran Canaria. Photo © Pedro Sarmiento

It is impressive to see how individuals of this species aggregate in different areas around the island of Gran Canaria, to the extent that they form a kind of carpet on the seabed, often making it impossible to see the sand. When disturbed, some will try to escape whereas others remain immobile, even when bathers step on them. It is an incredible experience to share space with these rays, as it is very easy to swim with them or get spectacular photos just by snorkelling.

David Jiménez, leader of the project Rays of Paradise, with a buried butterfly ray off the beach of Salinetas, Gran Canaria. Photo © David Jiménez | Rays of Paradise

While doing field work for the Rays of Paradise project, we were lucky to see groups of butterfly rays off the beaches we had selected for the visual census of this species; in some transects we even observed in excess of 50 individuals. It is not yet clear for what purpose the rays come to the different beaches: some researchers maintain that they come to mate, whereas others are of the opinion these waters are used for breeding. Through our study we will try to find answers to the many questions surrounding a species so little is known about in the Canary Islands.

A butterfly ray found during one of our linear transects at Salinetas. Photo © David Jiménez | Rays of Paradise

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