In a rare ecological find, scientists have discovered only the third manta nursery in the world off the coast of South Florida.
The nursery was discovered after scientists observed a large concentration of juvenile manta ray off a 58-mile stretch of coast from the St. Lucie Inlet to Boynton Beach.
Noticed repeated over the years as a congregating location for juveniles, many of these juveniles were seen several times over in the same area across a period of years.
Prior to the discovery, scientists were only aware of two other nurseries, one in the Gulf of Mexico and the other in Indonesia.
The proximity of the discovery to several major research universities will provide scientists an opportunity to study the species breeding habits which remain a mystery. Additionally, researchers are curious to understand how the rays’ development is impacted by their proximity to beachside resorts such as Margaritaville and Mar-a-Lago.
Rays are an ancient animal species that have evolved alongside plants. Despite some of the larger ray species being easily identifiable, the species in large part remains a mystery.
Marine Biologist Jessica Pate told National Geographic, “There’s so little we know about mantas.”
Pate outlines her findings of the discovery of the manta ray nursery in further detail in her paper.
As currently understood rays can’t breed until 8-10 years old and nurseries require an abundance of both food and the absence of predators. Once old enough to breed, rays will have 1-2 offspring every few years.
By learning more about manta rays breeding habits, conversationalists hope to be able to develop strategies to help protect the species which were listed in 2018 as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
“These mantas are living in South Florida with millions of people, so protecting them won’t be easy,” Pate said. “But as manta rays around the world are declining, this could be a really important population to safeguard the species.”
Source: Good News Network