Spotted: Reef Manta Ray
Location: Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
Depth: Approximately 5 meters
Undersea Specialist: Maya Santangelo. Follow her @mayasantangelo.
It is very common to find manta rays feeding around the extremely nutrient-rich waters of the Marquesas Islands. Highly evolved with an exceptionally large brain and one of the most efficient filtration mechanisms known to science for feeding on plankton, manta rays display several different feeding strategies.
On this morning in Fatu Hiva, we found a group of several mantas feeding at the surface, cruising back and forth in straight lines with mouths wide open. As this male manta turned to keep feeding, it dived down closer to me and showed off its unique spot pattern on its ventral side (belly), which I photographed for identification. Through citizen science, our expeditions to the Marquesas have greatly contributed to what is known about the little-studied manta ray population in this region of the world (these were the first photo-ID records from Fatu Hiva!). With so many mantas feeding in the area, every time we get in the water is an opportunity to learn more."