Image of the Day: Photo ID
Image of the Day: Photo ID

Image of the Day: Photo ID

Marine biologists identify smalleye stingrays using the white spots on their backs.

Jun 27, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou

ABOVE: A diver with a smalleye stingray
ANDREA MARSHALL/MARINE MEGAFAUNA FOUNDATION

The smalleye stingray (Megatrygon microps) is the largest marine stingray, with wingspans of up to 222 cm. They can be found in the waters off the coast of eastern Africa. Not much is known about the home ranges of these animals, but biologists are learning more about where they are found by using photos of the stingrays to identify and track individuals.

In a study published in PeerJ on June 11, researchers collected photos from their own dives and from tourists diving along the coast of Mozambique and used the white spot patterns on the rays’ backs to identify individuals.

“We reported the first sightings of smalleye stingray in 2004 and have since been racing against the clock to learn more about their ecology before it is too late,” says coauthor Andrea Marshall of the Marine Megafauna Foundation in a press release.

The authors report that some individuals traveled hundreds of kilometers along the coastline, including a pregnant female that made a 400-kilometer round trip over 102 days.

A. Boggio-Pasqua et al., “Spotting the ‘small eyes’: using photo-ID methodology to study a wild population of smalleye stingrays (Megatrygon microps) in southern Mozambique,” PeerJ, doi:10.7717/peerj.7110, 2019.

Underwater footage of the smalleye stingray (Megatrygon microps)
JANNEMAN CONRADIE/MARINE MEGAFAUNA FOUNDATION