Giant Manta Ray feeding at ocean surface. Photo Credit: Steve Woods Photography/Getty ImagesAnimals Ecuador
There’s Plenty of Manta Rays in (This Part of) the Sea – and We’re Learning from Them
Off the coast of Ecuador, a population of oceanic manta rays was found to be 10 times bigger than in any other region, and scientists are studying this happy surprise to help ensure rays get the best chances of survival in other parts of the world.
“It’s clear that something different is happening here,” says coauthor of the study and quantitative ecologist Joshua Stewart, from Oregon State University. “This is a rare story of ocean optimism.”
There are more than 22,000 oceanic manta rays – or Mobula birostris – in the Isla de la Plata region where there is a plentiful supply of food due to cold and nutrient-rich water providing a steady stream of zooplankton. Even though the Ecuador population is 10 times the numbers estimated in other regions – between 1,000 and 2,000 – the oceanic mantra ray reappeared on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species in 2019. Oceanic manta rays are identified through the spot pattern they have on their belly, as unique for them as fingerprints for humans.