Manta Rays Use Fins To Communicate
Manta Rays may communicate by moving the fins near their mouths according to a new study. Hundreds of hours of footage were studied. Researchers noticed that there were body movement patterns within the rays social interaction with each other as well as other fish.
Manta rays are the largest fish in the world. They can grow as large as 9m across from wing tip to wing tip. They are known to be very social creatures but until now there was little knowledge on how they communicate with each other.
Communicate using cephalic lobes
The footage was taken at the Raja Ampat marine reserve in Indonesia, Southeast Asia. Here rays and other fish meet up and are cleaned by smaller fish, removing parasites. The footage suggests rays signal to each other using their cephalic lobes. These lobes are flexible fins situated either side of the rays mouth. The lobes funnel water in to the rays mouth, so that they can feed, but also the lobes appear to be used to make small and subtle gestures to each other and other fish.
The rays make small flicks of their lobes when facing towards each other. This is behaviour that they don’t do when not facing one another, which suggests they are conscious movements directed at other rays. They also move their lobes differently when reacting to other fish.
Further research needed
For now the actual meaning of these communications is hard to know. Researchers often find it hard to understand the communication of other species, but it is likely that rays can communicate in a sophisticated way with one another. Further research will no doubt reveal more.
If you are interested in finding out how to support Manta conservation then please visit our Manta Trust page.