News / Science & Technology

Satellite Technology Reveals Clues to Lives of Mysterious Manta Rays

A female manta ray swims off shore Keauhou Bay, Hawaii (file photo).A female manta ray swims off shore Keauhou Bay, Hawaii (file photo).
x
A female manta ray swims off shore Keauhou Bay, Hawaii (file photo).
A female manta ray swims off shore Keauhou Bay, Hawaii (file photo).
VOA News
Marine scientists are using satellite technology to track the elusive ocean wanderings of giant manta rays - graceful creatures that ply the world’s seas.

The co-authors of the new study say more measures are needed to protect dwindling worldwide manta populations, but complicating the issue is that almost nothing is known about the day-to-day movements and ecological needs of these enigmatic gentle giants.
 
To solve some of the mystery, the scientists attached satellite transmitters to six manta rays swimming off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and then recorded their travels for the next 13 days.

Mantas are the largest species of ray.  They can weigh 2.5 tons, and their wing-like fins can span more than 7.5 meters.  Filter-feeding manta rays reach their enormous size by feasting on free-floating clouds of fish eggs and microscopic organisms called zooplankton.

The researchers say their new satellite telemetry shows some of the giant rays they studied covered more than 1,100 kilometers during the 13-day study period.  

The six mantas spent most of their time cruising around Mexico’s coastal waters where food was plentiful.  However, the scientists say the satellite data revealed the majority of the locations were in major shipping routes where the mantas could be hit by passing vessels.  Only 11.5 percent of the places where the six rays gathered were located in marine protected areas.

The Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed mantas as “vulnerable” to extinction.  

The study's co-authors say research using satellite tracking technology is critical in developing effective conservation and management strategies.

The new study was a collaboration of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Britain’s University of Exeter, and the government of Mexico.  It is published in the journal, PLoS One (Public Library of Science One).

Mantas, like all rays, are closely related to sharks.  They have the highest brain-to-body ratio of all shark and ray species known to science.  

Despite their imposing size, manta rays pose no threat to humans.  They do not have a potentially deadly barbed tail like a stingray, or teeth like a shark.

The enormous ocean giants filter feed just like their colossal whale-shark cousins, or baleen whales, which are mammals.  Mantas give birth to live young, having one or two pups roughly once every one or two years.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs