|Camrin D. Braun, Gregory B. Skomal, Simon R. Thorrold, Michael L. Berumen, Diving Behavior of the Reef Manta Ray Links Coral Reefs with Adjacent Deep Pelagic Habitats, PLoS One, 2014|
Recent successful efforts to increase protection for manta rays has highlighted the lack of basic ecological information, including vertical and horizontal movement patterns, available for these species. We deployed pop-up satellite archival transmitting tags on nine reef manta rays, Manta alfredi, to determine diving behaviors and vertical habitat use. Transmitted and archived data were obtained from seven tagged mantas over deployment periods of 102–188 days, including three recovered tags containing 2.6 million depth, temperature, and light level data points collected every 10 or 15 seconds. Mantas frequented the upper 10 m during daylight hours and tended to occupy deeper water throughout the night. Six of the seven individuals performed a cumulative 76 deep dives (>150 m) with one individual reaching 432 m, extending the known depth range of this coastal, reef-oriented species and confirming its role as an ecological link between epipelagic and mesopelagic habitats. Mean vertical velocities calculated from high-resolution dive data (62 dives >150 m) from three individuals suggested that mantas may use gliding behavior during travel and that this behavior may prove more efficient than continuous horizontal swimming. The behaviors in this study indicate manta rays provide a previously unknown link between the epi- and mesopelagic layers of an extremely oligotrophic marine environment and provide evidence of a third marine species that utilizes gliding to maximize movement efficiency.
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