Scientists have discovered the world’s first known natural manta ray nursery, which could allow them to observe the juvenile marine creatures in their habitat and learn more about them.
Located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas at U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the juvenile manta ray habitat is the first-of-its-kind to be described in a scientific study.
Joshua Stewart, a PhD candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, observed the juvenile mantas while conducting research on manta population structure at Flower Garden Banks.
“The juvenile life stage for oceanic mantas has been a bit of a black box for us, since we’re so rarely able to observe them,” said Stewart, lead author of the study published in the journal Marine Biology. “Identifying this area as a nursery highlights its importance for conservation and management, but it also gives us the opportunity to focus on the juveniles and learn about them,” he said. “This discovery is a major advancement in our understanding of the species,” he added.