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Underwater ultrasound scanner to support manta conservation

28 / 05 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Not all fish lay eggs. Female guppies, a common aquarium fish, can “drop” between two and 200 babies over several hours, and male seahorses typically hold eggs inside a brood pouch and deliver hundreds of tiny live seahorse babies. Most sharks and rays give birth to live young, and some, like manta rays, produce just 1 or 2 pups at a time, with at least a year in between births. A Pacific manta seemingly escorted by a much smaller jack fish. Mantas are large rays (the smaller reef mantas reach 5.5 meters, or 18 feet) that feed on plankton by filtering water through their gills. Image credit: George Powell. Recently, researchers in the Republic of Maldives have been able to observe the fetus of an adult female manta with the help of a contactless underwater ultrasound scanner. “We know very little about where these reef manta rays go to give birth and how long gestation lasts in the wild,” said Nicole Pelletier, Manta Trust project manager at the Six Senses Laamu resort in the Laamu Atoll, in a statement. “This ultrasound technology could allow us to determine rates of reproduction in the wild and this information would help guide conservation strategies for this threatened species.” Sightings data show steep declines in various manta populations, primarily due to sustained killing and capture pressure from fishing. The animals are killed as bycatch in other fisheries and, more recently, direct and unsustainable fishing for their gill plates, which are now a sought-after material for…

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