When marine biologist Josh Stewart saw a manta ray in the water above him, he immediately realized that it wasn’t as big as an adult manta ray should be. It was, in fact, a very young one and from his experience, they are not commonly-seen around. This is why Stewart and a few colleagues decided to conduct a study and present the world’s first manta ray nursery, full of young specimens, from newborns to teenagers. The journal Marine Biology has recently published this new and very interesting study.
Andrea Marshall, a National Geographic explorer, says that it’s extremely important for experts to be aware of the exact location of these sites. It’s crucial to know where baby manta rays are so that the teams can target their protection strategies in those areas. These strategies are very important, mainly because manta rays take a lot of time to fully grow up. For example, females usually have their first babies after the age of eight or ten. This is late considering they live up to 40 years. So, it’s normal for every baby manta ray swimming around the Flower Garden Banks nursery area to be considered extremely valuable.
The first manta ray nursery in the world
Moreover, the U.S. Endangered Species Act lists manta rays as threatened, which is why young specimens should be protected at all costs. There are few giant manta rays out there, and the number is continuously decreasing. When it comes to the main threat for them, experts think it’s fishing. People are looking to obtain their gill plates through which they filter food from seawater.
The Chinese use the gill plates for medicinal purposes. However, there is no evidence that they can indeed help and are not present in traditional Chinese medicine. Now, experts want to understand what makes the Flower Garden Banks area so incredibly attractive. Especially to all of these young mantas.
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