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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs