From Wildlife Extra:
Manta Rays are two distinct species
July 2008. A second, and even possibly a third, species of manta ray has been discovered in the World’s oceans. This is the biggest news to date to come out of ray research, and its importance is the marine equivalent of discovering an unknown species of elephant. The discovery however, has implications that go far beyond the breaking news of scientific journals, as it will deeply affect real world conservation ideas and policies.
For the past five years the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) has sponsored Andrea Marshall, a PhD marine biologist in a quest to make advances in the scientific knowledge of these winged beauties of the sea, whose large triangular pectoral fins can span almost 8m in width and whose weight can reach over 2000kg. Manta rays, which are totally harmless and do not possess a stinging barb, are the largest of over 500 different species of rays and skates, and although divers have noted variations in physical appearance they were previously believed to be the same kind.
After suspecting the existence of a second species Andrea began studying other populations across the globe. Through genetic and morphological analysis she confirmed that there is indeed a second, and possibly a third, species of manta ray that exists across temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. The two species have mainly overlapping distributions, but their lifestyles differ greatly; one is migratory and the other is resident to particular areas along the coast. Other differences between the two species lie in their colour, skin texture, reproductive biology, and the presence of a non-functioning type of sting on the tail of one of the species.
‘Residential’ Manta Rays – at risk
The smaller, more commonly known manta ray resides in the same areas year round and is often encountered at coral reefs where they congregate to be cleaned by parasite-eating fish in locations such as Hawaii, the Maldives, Mozambique, Australia, Japan and the Island of Yap. Due to their residential nature they face a grave threat from unsustainable fisheries, as other manta rays will not replace a dwindling population, making their regional extinction a likely possibility.
Migratory Manta rays
Much less is known about the larger species, as it appears to be more migratory and elusive, shying away from divers rather than seeking interaction as its smaller cousin often does. Andrea has only ever witnessed it arriving at sea-mounts or at particularly productive areas along the coastline to feed on plankton before disappearing into the blue once again. Little is known about its behaviour or migratory patterns, though it appears to be targeted heavily by fisheries, particularly in Southeast Asia, where thousands are killed each year.
The once secret life of a huge, recently discovered species of manta ray has been unveiled: here.
July 2007. Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists consolidating world databases of ocean organisms have demoted to alias status almost one-third of all names culled from 34 regional and highly specialized inventories.
The new World Register of Marine Species (www.marinespecies.org) contains about 122,500 validated marine species names (experts having recognized and tidied up some 56,400 aliases – 32% of all names reviewed). It also contains some 5,600 images, hyperlinks to taxonomic literature and other information. …
56 names for the same species!
Some species, such as those reclassified in years past based on new information, were shown to have a handful of names or more. In such cases, the oldest name trumps later ones to become the valid name (though all aliases are noted to help researchers interpret centuries of scientific literature).
Popularly called Breadcrumb Sponge, Halichondria panicea is the marine world’s reigning champion of Latin aliases, with 56 synonyms appearing in taxonomic literature since its first description in 1766. Of no fixed address, it’s known to frequent floats, pilings, and the underside of rocks, smells like exploded gunpowder and takes on many appearances (as shown in photos). It is also known as (AKA): Alcyonium manusdiaboli (1794), Spongia compacta (1806), Halichondria albescens (1818), Seriatula seriata (1826), Hymeniacidon brettii (1866), Pellina bibula (1870), Amorphina appendiculata (1875), Isodictya crassa (1882), Microciona tumulosa (1882), Menanetia minchini (1896), Trachyopsilla glaberrima (1931) and 44 other names.
No researcher’s work is spared – not even Carl Linnaeus, who in the 1750s overcame an international scientific Tower of Babel when it came to naming species. He instituted the two-word Latin name, starting with the (capitalized) genus, followed by a (lowercase) specific epithet, a system used ever since. Thanks to his method of binominal nomenclature, what is dubbed a bulot in French fish markets, whelk in New England, buccin in Canada, and the Wellhornschnecke of the North Sea, is known universally to scientists as Buccinum undatum.
However, over time it emerged that Linnaeus assigned four names to the same species of sperm whale, a mistake caught years ago but which still appears in world literature and databases. The World Register will clarify for all time the valid name for that whale and all other marine species for future researchers, census takers and educators alike.
Waste in the Maldives: here.
PHOTO OF THE DAY: Manta Rays Leap 9ft Out of Water Into the Air: here.
July 2010: Dr Andrea Marshall – known as Queen of the Mantas from the BBC’s 2009 documentary film – has attached a satellite tag to a giant four metre manta ray off the coast of South America: here.
Manta and mobula rays are ecotourism gold, but fishing to feed the traditional Chinese medicine trade is threatening both groups, according to a new report published jointly by conservation organisations Shark Savers and WildAid: here.
Manta Rays Fate Worse Than Sharks: here.
Victory! Alibaba.com Stops Selling Manta Ray Products: here.
First satellite tag study for manta rays reveals habits and hidden journeys of ocean giants: here.
February 2013. Delegates to the CITES conference in Bangkok have the opportunity to stem the trade in manta ray parts, specifically gill-rakers, and protect vulnerable manta populations. Charismatic manta rays can generate tens of millions of dollars annually through ecotourism if the destructive trade in their gill-rakers is stemmed say proponents: here.
USA: torpedo ray beaches.
North Sea rays: here.
- Manta rays threatened by fishermen (upi.com)
- Scientists rush to save iconic manta rays (behindthewall.nbcnews.com)
- On the trail of a manta ray hunt (todayonline.com)
- Exploring the Marine Life of Malaysia (beontheroad.com)
- New African fish species gets biologist’s name (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Questions about manta rays harvested for traditional Chinese medicine (doubtfulnews.com)
- Manta rays: how illegal trade eats its own lunch | Damian Carrington (guardian.co.uk)
- Indonesia announces shark and manta ray sanctuary (abc.net.au)