Image of the Day: Belly Flop

Watch a Munk’s devil ray breach.

May 23, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou
A Munk’s devil ray breaching in Baja California Sur
MELISSA CRONIN

Melissa Cronin and the Conservation Action Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, study the ecology, biology, and conservation of extremely threatened sea and island species.The Munk’s devil ray, also called a pygmy devil ray (Mobula munkiana), is a small devil ray found in the Gulf of California and in the tropical waters outside the Gulf. The fish are known for their impressive schools, which can number in the hundreds and even thousands, and for their breaching behavior.

“We don’t know exactly why manta and devil rays jump—it could be mating or courting behavior, or to slough off parasites. Many scientists hypothesize that it may serve as a form of communication among individuals, maybe as an alert during times of really high and dense food aggregation,” says Cronin in an email to The Scientist. “This behavior is amazing to see in person, like a ballet of big flappy fish all around you.”

Cronin says that a primary threat to these animals is fisheries bycatch, or accidental capture in fishing gear and nets. Cronin’s work seeks to examine this threat to manta and devil rays in industrial fisheries and to propose solutions to reduce it.