Social networks in reef manta rays (Manta alfredi)

Many elasmobranchs are highly threatened species for which understanding of processes affecting spatial ecology and population dynamics is required to inform conservation management. Sociality may have been overlooked in these organisms as an important factor structuring groups. Among elasmobranchs, manta rays have lifeZhistory characteristics and attributes which may be particularly conducive to the evolution of sociality. They are often found in groups, and display typically social behaviours. Reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) are known to exhibit site fidelity, often an important prerequisite for sociality. They are also longZlived and have extremely large brains compared to most fish. Despite this, most current study on manta rays focuses on population management or individualZbased telemetry studies. Social network analysis may provide a way to link these, and explain how environmental influences act at the level of the group. In this study I use recently developed network techniques to show that a local population of manta rays comprises distinct social groups which are maintained by longZterm social associations between individuals. This type of sociality is unreported in manta rays, and warrants more comprehensive study, as it may be a major feature affecting manta ray movements and thus entry of rays into unprotected waters.

ISCED Categories

The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology