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Although many sharks are solitary creatures, their manta ray relatives are surprisingly social: They copy one another’s movements, play together, and will even curiously approach nearby humans. Now, scientists have discovered they also form “friendships” with their fellow rays—loose associations that can last for weeks or months at a time.
To understand the structure of manta ray communities, researchers tracked more than 500 groups of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) for 5 years in the turquoise waters off the coast of northwest Indonesia (above). They photographed the rays at five gathering spots: three “cleaning stations,” where the mantas received full-body manicures from cleaner wrasse and copepods, and two popular feeding locations, where the rays slurped up shrimp and fish larvae (and sometimes their trusty cleaners, the copepods).
Researchers - Rays - Patterns - Spots - Bodies
The researchers then identified individual rays from patterns of spots on their bodies and tracked their interactions. Some rays formed “friendships” that lasted weeks or months. Females...
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