Worlds first known manta ray nursery discovered

Stewart, who had been studying these magnificent creatures for a long time, had only seen one or two juveniles in his study, but all that changed when conducting research on manta population structure at Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary.

Finding where the juvenile species thrived is instrumental in highlighting the significance of designated marine protected areas.

The nursery of juvenile mantra rays was first observed by Joshua Stewart, a marine biology PhD student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Given how rare it is to spot juvenile rays, Josh Stewart, the lead author of the study, made a decision to find out why it was such a regular occurrence at the Banks.

Working with marine refuge personnel, Stewart and colleagues appeared Through 25 decades of dive log and photograph identification information accumulated by refuge research sailors.

The ocean manta rays (Mobula birostris ) are huge animals that feed on plankton and can reach seven meters in span when they are adults. Luckily, Flower Garden Banks is now looking at expansion and hopes to add additional reefs and banks in the Gulf of Mexico to its 56 square miles, which were first protected in 1992. These coral communities have grown on top of hard substrate thrust out of the seafloor by the development of salt domes.

Flower Garden Banks may be attractive to the juvenile mantas because it's an area where the sea floor slopes into deep water.

Certain types of zooplankton are most abundant in these deeper habitats and are known to be a favorite prey item for mantas. Rather, the study's authors guess they retreat into the comparative safety of these banks after diving to cold offshore waters. In the case of the giant manta rays, they have already been listed as threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act 2018. To affirm this, researchers in the sanctuary strategy to start tagging juvenile mantas in the banks to monitor their movements and diving behaviour. Now, in the Gulf of Mexico has been identified the first hatchery of manta rays worldwide, by the Institution of Scripps Oceanography.

Scientists say the discovery could provide more insight into the juvenile stages of the gentle giants.

The researchers don't know why the rays chose the area they did, but figuring it out could help identify similar places in the world's oceans, and therefore hopefully locate more nurseries.

"Nowhere else in the world has a manta ray nursery area been recognized-which heightens the importance of the sanctuary for these pelagic species", said Schmahl.

Program that provides scholars the chance to collaborate with sanctuaries on study that's directly pertinent to conservation and management. Predators include large surface-living shark species, but they are less frequent than in the southern Caribbean, where the Atlantic brings currents around all the major islands and other common rays such as the eagle rays and mobulas could easily be mistaken for juvenile mantas.

Along with Stewart, research co-authors comprise Marissa Nutall, Emma Hickerson, and Michelle Johnston from NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Data found in this analysis were collected during cruises funded jointly Long-term monitoring Data set from 2010-2017 was financed through an interagency National Ocean Service, ONMS throughout Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

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