Mystery of the Mantas in the Seychelles
Imagine a beautiful coral island surrounded by a deep blue ocean with an unbroken horizon for as far as the eye can see. Add in a huge abundance of diverse marine life from sea turtles, sharks and manta rays that cruise the shallow reefs, to dolphins, tuna and sailfish that inhabit the deep water beyond the drop-off. This is the Seychellois island of D’Arros, and the home of a new Manta Trust project lead by Grace Phillips…
Working in collaboration with D’Arros Research Centre and the Save Our Seas Foundation, we are collecting important data on the population demographics and movements of the manta rays which inhabit the waters of this island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. And it is very exciting to be the Manta Trust project leader for this new site! The potential for different angles of research with the rays here are plentiful, and I believe we are in for some interesting and busy years ahead.
As soon as Guy Stevens, the Manta Trust Founder and Chief Executive, and I arrived on the island last week, we wasted no time in setting up acoustic tags, getting all the equipment in order, and heading out on the boat to meet the D’Arros mantas……and what beautiful mantas they are! Just to make life easy for us, a small group of juveniles seem to enjoy hanging around just off the island’s beach, feeding on the rich planktonic soup which gets washed into the shallow waters by strong currents which sweep around the island. We have several plans in store for the mantas on this trip; to conduct daily manta surveys around the island, to tag a selection with acoustic tags, to get as many ID shots as possible, and to install 9 acoustic receivers at locations on the other islands in the Amirantes chain. There is already an array of 51 acoustic receivers in place around the island of D’Arros and the neighbouring St Joseph’s Atoll, which is fantastic and will hopefully return us some very interesting data on the movements of the manta rays which we tag during this trip, and future trips.
We have already tagged 3 mantas which are now sending out acoustic pings to the established array of receivers, allowing us to track their movements around the island and atoll and gain an insight into the life of the D’Arros mantas! Interestingly, so far this trip we have only seen juvenile rays and from repeated visual sightings these little guys appear to be sticking around, at least for the short-term. This already raises some interesting questions; where are the adult mantas? Are they just hanging out in the deeper water or do they visit the island during certain months only? And when will the juveniles begin to venture further afield? These questions, and many others, we hope to answer over the next few years as we tag more individuals with acoustic and satellite tags and our data starts to flow in. So keep checking back to the project page to stay up to date on our little juvenile manta rays!
To learn more about our work in the Seychelles check out the project page in the ‘In the Field’ section.