Scientists have found a huge group of manta rays off the coast of Ecuador, according to an article published in Marine Ecology Progress Series. The group has more than 22,000 manta rays, more than 10 times the population estimates in other regions. The discovery has given ecologists and ocean scientists new hope at a time when human activity and climate change are shrinking the habitats of more and more animals. They now want to study the favorable conditions for the fish to thrive.
“Obviously something else is going on here. This is a rare story of ocean optimism. In other regions we typically have population estimates of 1,000 to 2,000 animals, which makes this species very vulnerable,” said Joshua Stewart, a quantitative ecologist from Oregon. State University, was quoted by Science Alert. He is one of the authors of the research paper on the discovery.
Mr Stewart went on to say that the warming climate is expected to have an impact on manta rays “as they are sensitive to environmental disturbances”.
Scientists identify each manta rays by a unique spot pattern on their abdomen, like human fingerprints. It also helps them keep track of the fish’s existing fate over time.
Manta rays are the largest rays in the world. According to National Geographic, the marine creatures are found in tropical, subtropical and temperate ocean waters around the world.
In 2019, the manta rays were again placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered species list. The Red List of Threatened Species identified commercial fishing as the greatest threat to the species.
In Spanish, “Manta” means blanket or cloak, describing the appearance of the animals’ large, flat, diamond-shaped bodies, which are characterized by triangular pectoral fins. Manta rays have two horn-shaped fins that protrude from the front of their heads, which has also earned them the nickname “devil fish.”
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