New research revealing the extent to which giant manta rays rely on the deep ocean for food could be critical to efforts to protect the species.
Giant manta rays are listed as vulnerable because their population has decreased drastically over the past 20 years due to overfishing.
The joint study by The University of Queensland and the Marine Megafauna Foundation suggested the majority of the giant manta rays’ diet was from deep sources, rather than surface zooplankton as previously thought.
The previous knowledge of giant manta ray diet was based on observations of feeding activity close to the ocean surface.
The new study determined what the animals had been eating using biochemical tests on small tissue samples taken from free-swimming mantas.
It found that nearly three-quarters of their diet came from species found at depths of between 200m and 1000m.
“The deep ocean is the next frontier for open ocean fisheries, and we are only just realising the potential reliance on this zone by threatened marine megafauna,” said UQ’s Professor Anthony Richardson.
The research was a collaboration between The University of Queensland, the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Proyecto Mantas Ecuador.
You can read more about the research team’s findings here. Story credit: University of Queensland newsroom.
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