Help keep an eye out for spotted eagle rays

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Help keep an eye out for spotted eagle rays

March 27, 2013 - 22:28
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Mote Marine Laboratory researchers are asking for the public's help documenting spotted eagle rays.

Spotted eagle rays have been observed in Keys waters, but little is known about where they spend most of their time. (Image above is a unrelated filephoto)

In 2009, Mote Marine Laboratory with the National Aquarium in Baltimore initiated a conservation research program on the life history, reproduction, and population status of the elasmobranch Aetobatus narinari, commonly known as the spotted eagle ray

To identify where these rays migrate, Mote has tagged animals with traditional tags and with satellite tags that allow the rays’ movements to be followed as they travel. Mote scientists are also collaborating with researchers in Mexico to collect genetic samples from rays caught in fisheries. These samples are being analyzed by a geneticist at the California Academy of Sciences, which will help determine population structure and connectivity in the Gulf of Mexico.

Photo Identification

Photographs of each spotted eagle ray that is captured for tagging are carefully taken to show the animal’s unique spot pattern. These images are placed in a digital photo catalogue that utilizes a special software program that records each ray’s spot patterns. If a ray is recaptured, this software can show how the spots have changed over time. This catalogue also allows researchers to assess the ray for any other changes, including growth.

We don't know if the rays in the Keys come from Southwest Florida, or perhaps even Mexico or Cuba, and we don't know if rays in the Keys favor particular reefs

—Mote biologist Kim Hull

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