Finding adult mantas is easy; Divers see them in many places. But in a mystery that has long confused scientists, teenagers rarely swim openly in specific locations. A marine biologist believes he has found his meeting place.
SAN DIEGO – The University of California, San Diego, has discovered the world's first known children's room for mantas. Idyllic place in the Gulf of Mexico, where the "gentle Giants "reach divers along colorful reefs that seem to have sprung from the fantasy of Walt Disney.
An exploration team under the direction of Josh Stewart, who received his Ph.D. in marine biology from The University's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1
He was assisted by colleagues from NOAA, which lead the site, which is part of the Marine Marine Sanctuaries of Flower Garden Banks, about 70 miles to the south of Galveston, Texas.
Finding adult mantas is easy; Divers see them in many places. But in a mystery that has long confused scientists, teens rarely swim openly in defined locations during the four to five years they need to grow up.
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Stewart has been trying to solve the puzzle for years and had first success in 2016 when he saw a young oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris). Later he saw more youthful mantas and with the help of the NOAA researchers, he discovered that he was in a kindergarten. The discovery was published this week in the journal Marine Biology.
The juvenile fish were mostly found in an area where the seabed falls into deeper water.
"We think they feed on certain types of zooplankton we migrate to the surface where we saw them," said Stewart of the San Diego Union Tribune. "They could hang around the shore because it could be a little safer than open water."
"We've seen them so seldom (in the past) that we know very little about these teenagers. We do not know how far they move, or exactly what they feed on or what habitats they have access to. "
But Stewart can say with certainty that it's easy to wait in the water and wait for manta rays to experience a remarkable thing.
" You're out there, doing your job, and you look up and there is the unmistakable form of a manta, "said Stewart." At first you can hardly see it. But then it comes in sight and my heart beats a beat. (The adults) are gigantic. They can have a wingspan of 21 feet. And they are super friendly. They will come very close to you.
"That makes them very different from other big sea creatures that keep their distance Mantas are curious They are interested in why divers blow bubbles They will hang out I can not imagine another big animal that will do that to you . "