One of the most effective ways to understand manta rays is through photo-ID studies. Manta rays can be identified by the individual spot patterns on their underside- just like a human fingerprint. These spot patterns do not change throughout their life time.
By collecting photos the Manta Trust researchers can develop a better understanding of the manta rays movements and social structure. With tens of thousands of images being entered into the Global Manta Ray database each year, the next step is to match the new images to the existing database to see if the manta has been encountered before- anywhere else in the world!
Typically the researchers would filter through thousands of images manually trying to find a match. To speed the process, the Manta Trust are developing automatic manta recognition technology software which makes this process fully-automated. To be able to merge, the current Global Manta Ray Database with this technology will make the database accessible to manta scientists as well as the general public.
The software will also send in-depth feedback to the person who uploads the photo. S.E.A. Aquarium are assisting to support the IDtheManta initiative to help researchers better understand manta ray population size and structure, as well as their movements.
If you have seen a manta anywhere in the world you can contribute directly to the global research and conservation of manta rays by submitting your images and sighting encounters. Visit this site to contribute or to learn more about the IDtheManta.
The Manta Trust researchers carry out extensive work in the field and have vast amounts of knowledge and information that we can share with our visitors. At S.E.A. Aquarium we can display the most up-to-date scientific information on their biology, behaviour, conservation and research. Through interactive quizzes and games our visitors will be able to learn so much more about these fascinating rays and how to identify them from other individuals.