Did you know and are distantly related and are taxonomically included in the same subclass of ? While sharks are the focus of our program we have seen manta rays while out with the sharks a handful of times, and are always keeping our fingers crossed for the possibility of an interaction! There are very rarely seen here off the island of Oahu except for some areas like Kaneohe Bay and are far more common on the big island of Hawaii. These iconic animals can be regularly encountered on night dives off the Kona coast, but patterns of habitat use throughout the other islands are not well understood. A study by Deakos et al. published in 2011 surveyed an aggregation site off the coast of Maui for a period of four years to determine abundance, movements, and temporal habits of the population. Photo identification revealed a total of 290 unique individuals, and their findings indicated the island-associated stock population may be independent of that of other islands. Members of the population regularly returned to the study area to either remove themselves of parasites or find potential mates suggesting strong site fidelity, and only 4 individuals were confirmed to have moved to another island within the Maui County area. Further research including tagging and genetic studies are needed to determine if these island associated populations are independent which has implications for management if there is little to no exchange between subpopulations. If you have seen a manta ray off Oahu check out and report your sighting to @oahumanta Oahumanta.org that is focused on learning more about the Oahu population of Mantas and has already documented 30+ sightings in the last year.
Photo of a off Maui by @chiaraphoto
Post by @blakethompsonphoto
Reposted from @oneoceanresearch