Discovery on long-term body pigmentation changes of manta rays


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Body pigmentation changes on a manta ray over 9 months


The natural coloration and body pigmentation of manta rays have been considered permanent over their lifespan. Until recently, when a new discovery that was published in the Biological Journal of Linnean Society by Dr. Csilla Ari described long-term body pigmentation changes on a manta ray. Individual manta rays are identified from patterns of ventral markings worldwide and the body coloration of manta rays is used for species identification as well.

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(Left) Dr. Csilla Ari with a manta ray at the Atlantis Aquarium

(Right) Dr. Csilla Ari observing manta rays at the Atlantis Aquarium, Bahamas

Csilla conducted observations at the Atlantis Aquarium, Bahamas and only 9 months apart she documented significant changes in the body pigmentation of a manta ray on the head and the ventral area. These observations got even more exciting when she found that first the manta ray could be rather classified as a third putative species, while during the next observation period the same animal rather resembled of Manta birostris. Csilla suggests that such pigmentation changes might happen only during maturation as ontogenetic changes.

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Body pigmentation changes on a manta ray over 9 months

Csilla conducted observations at the Atlantis Aquarium, Bahamas and only 9 months apart she documented significant changes in the body pigmentation of a manta ray on the head and the ventral area. These observations got even more exciting when she found that first the manta ray could be rather classified as a third putative species, while during the next observation period the same animal rather resembled of Manta birostris. Csilla suggests that such pigmentation changes might happen only during maturation as ontogenetic changes.

Our knowledge on the permanence of manta rays’ natural body pigmentation is essential, the extent of such changes need to be determined for accurate identification and classification of manta rays. This article reports the first evidence of long-term pigmentation changes of a manta ray, suggesting their pigmentation patterns are not as stable over time as previously assumed.

More interesting discussions on the possible role of such changes can be found in the Biological Journal of Linnean Society:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bij.12416/abstract


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