ID the manta

If you have seen a manta ray anywhere in the world, you can contribute directly to our global research and conservation efforts. Submit your images and some basic information about the sighting to our IDtheManta database, and we will provide feedback about the individual manta you encountered.


Or scroll down for more information about the initiative and how to contribute.

Reef Manta Ray, Manta alfredi, Surface Feeding, D'Arros Island, Amirantes, Seychelles © Guy Stevens, Manta Trust 2016.JPG

spot the difference

Each manta has a unique pattern of spots on its ventral surface (belly), which remains largely unchanged throughout their lives. 

It’s believed that random genetic mutations of the stem cells at the early stages of the pups development result in these widely varying patterns of pigmentation. This means that even if a manta were to give birth to genetically identical twin pups, the ventral patterning of the two would be different.

Much like a human fingerprint, the unique nature of these spots enables manta scientists to identify every individual manta just by photographing their ventral surfaces. This simple, non-invasive technique enables the development of photo-ID databases of all the mantas within a population, allowing us to estimate population size and document movements seasonally and spatially. Over time this detailed information can reveal migration patterns, habitats critical to feeding and reproduction, and much more - all of which is crucial if we are to make informed management decisions around the conservation of these animals. 




Every manta sighting, whether of a new manta or a re-sighting of a known individual, forms an important piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle.

Reef Manta Ray ID Area, Veyofushi Reef, Baa Atoll, Maldives © Guy Stevens Manta Trust (O).JPG

The area above is the most important part of taking a usable ID photo. At the very least we need to see the spots in this 'Primary ID' area. Whilst not absolutely crucial, getting the bottom of the manta in the shot will reveal whether the animal is a male, female, or a juvenile.

how do i take an ID photo?

A photograph of the ventral surface (belly) is the most important, as it reveals the individual’s unique spot pattern, and also shows the sex of the animal, which can be used to calculate proportions of males and females in the population.

The best photo ID captures the entire underside of the manta, but sometimes manta encounters can be short, so it’s important to photograph the most indicative portion of the animal in a pinch.

As well as the ID photo, there is some additional data we need in order to add the sighting to our database. The most crucial information we need are the date / time of the encounter, and the location (e.g. dive site, region, and country). That said, the more information you can provide about your encounter, the more feedback we can offer about the individual you've identified. 



Reef Manta Ray, Manta alfredi, Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll, Maldives © Guy Stevens Manta Trust 2010e.JPG

the 'id the manta' initiative

Citizen science (also known as community science or crowd science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by every-day people or nonprofessionals, and has truly come into its own in recent years. The technological development of our era, in combination with the accessibility of equipment such as underwater cameras, computers and smartphones, has resulted in an explosion of public participation to citizen science projects worldwide. The contribution of citizen scientists has helped with solving the structure of viruses, map our brain, discover new galaxies, discover new species, define animals’ migratory routes, and so much more!

IDtheManta was created to utilise the power of citizen science to aid in the research and conservation of the world's manta rays. Today we receive over 5,000 photo-ID submissions each year and, since its global roll-out in 2012, the IDthe Manta Database has become the largest of its kind. Over 10,000 individual reef (Mobula alfredi) and oceanic (Mobula birostris) mantas have been identified, through more than 100,000 photographed sightings from over 70 countries. But we want to step things up even further!

From Day 1, all these ID submissions have been manually processed and matched to mantas in our database by members of the Manta Team. We need to enlist technology if we hope to grow the scale and impact of the initiative further. The Manta Trust have partnered with the University of Bristol, and the not-for-profit company, IDtheAnimal Ltd, to create a fully-automated visual biometric photo-ID software for manta rays, which will interface with the existing IDtheManta global database. The hope is to create a novel platform that streamlines the submission of ID photos, and makes the databases accessible to manta scientists and the general public around the world.


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