Manta rays are the largest rays in the world. The genus Manta was considered monotypic, but has since been categorized as two different species: Manta birostris and Manta alfredi. M. alfredi is the most abundant species in Zavora Bay, however both species can be seen all year round, with a peak from July-November. Little is known about manta’s population structure and dynamics despite the attraction to these charismatic species.
Research at the Zavora Marine Lab aims to generate knowledge on the region’s manta populations and assist with their conservation.
Manta ray photo identification
Manta rays have a unique spot pattern on their belly and between their gills. These markings make it possible to identify individuals. Interns use photo-identification to gather data on population dynamics, migration patterns, and environmental variables that influence manta rays’ distribution and abundance.
Zavora Lab founder Yara Tibirica, in collaboration with the oceanographer Carlos E. J. de A. Tibirica, developed software that catalogues the number and location of the spots to identify individual manta rays.
Photo (c) Maya Santangelo (Zavora Marine Lab, 2016)