In the first ever study using satellite tracking of these "devilfish" scientists found that giant Manta Rays travel. A lot. And it's no wonder -- these animals grow up to 25 feet wide and are filter feeders, collecting tiny zooplankton and fish eggs as they swim through the water. It takes a whole lot of zooplankton to feed these guys but their travel habits weren't widely known. Until now.
Live Science reports that researchers tracked six manta rays for two months off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Some of the rays traveled over 620 miles during those two months, however they stayed within about 200 miles of the coast. This study shows that protecting manta rays, which are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, means protecting coastlines.
Live Science states, "The majority of ray locations revealed by the satellite tracking were in major shipping routes in the region, with only 11.5 percent of the locations residing in marine protected areas. As such manta rays could be vulnerable to ship strikes, the researchers suggested."
Studying the travel patterns of animals such as manta rays, sharks, and other species needing protection is a primary way to figure out just what spots out there need focus. If we don't know where they live, eat, and breed then we don't know really what impact we're having. This study is a great step forward in understanding that areas within 200 miles of the coastline are going to need protection. How that protection happens is a massive challenge, but at least we are now aware to some extent of what these animals need.