Last year in July, Dr. Andrea Marshall reported to the American Elasmobranch Society’s annual conference in Montreal her view that there are actually two species of manta ray. Until then people had believed there was only one species – Manta birostris. Mantas evolved from stingrays and some frequent reefs while others live in the open ocean. It had been thought that they had lost their sting, but Dr. Marshall found that the larger, ocean-going mantas still have a rudimentary sting on their tails, which proves that they are actually a separate species. These larger mantas will continue to be called Manta birostris, while their smaller, reef-dwelling cousins have been named Manta alfredi, in tribute to Alfred Whitley, who first scientifically described mantas in the 1930s.
Dr. Marshall’s more recent studies have shown that the larger mantas, which can grow up to a 7 metre wingspan, dives deeply and some of them migrated 700 miles to the Maldives from Mozambique in just 60 days. Hundreds of these mantas have been seen gathering in the Maldives, around 80% of which are pregnant females.
The photograph above accompanies a BBC article which also has a couple of videos. You can see the full article on the BBC website.