Following up with a study we featured last year, the results are now in; and the new study reveals that reef manta rays form social relationships and actively choose their social partners. Research published by scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Macquarie University, the University of Papua, and the University of York is the first to describe the structure of social relationships in manta rays.
To identify social structures, the researchers used aerial drones and underwater cameras to take identification photos of all rays present in each group, and monitored weather individuals were more likely to be seen together (at different times and in different locations) than expected if encounters were random.
With the growth of tourism in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Marine Park, and still with the threat of illegal hunting, manta rays are coming into increased contact with humans. Lead researcher Rob Perryman stated, “Manta rays are intelligent and perform collective behaviours such as foraging and playing. They are curious, often approaching humans, and individuals appear to have different personalities. It turns out that reef manta rays actively choose to group with preferred social partners.”
“Collecting more information about their social relationships and structures will be needed to develop sustainable ecotourism and conservation initiatives that allow mantas to coexist with humans in their natural habitats,” Perryman concluded.
Watch the video that accompanies the study here;
The study by Rob Perryman et al, titled ‘Social preferences and network structure in a population of reef manta rays’ is published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology on 22 August 2019 and is available here; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00265-019-2720-x
Also available on the Marine Megafauna Foundation website at; https://marinemegafaunafoundation.org/blog/manta-rays-social-bonds-raja-ampat/?fbclid=IwAR2-AUSNBbiIBq_EYITD7YRBR0vyzHk4mK4NLYQLxwWP1CgoMfoOG08iaKE
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