Most divers that come to Bali want to see the impressive Manta Ray. At the moment there are about 520 individuals that have been identified around Nusa Penida. Some of them are always around Penida and don’t travel too far, but some have been spotted as far away as Komodo.
How do the scientists know which Manta is which?
It’s actually quite easy and every diver with a camera can help researchers. Every Manta Ray has a unique spot pattern on their belly and their wings which makes them easy to tell apart. So, if you see somebody at Manta Point taking lots of pictures from the Mantas’ underside it might be a researcher from Aquatic Alliance that are stationed in Nusa Lembongan.
Every diver can be a little Manta researcher themselves. If you have any good belly shots you can upload them to mantamatcher.org. The only thing you need is a clear shot of the belly area, encounter date and location, of course any additional information is very much appreciated. The researchers will then compare the new picture with their database. The good thing about mantamatcher.org is actually that they don’t have to go through the whole database and compare it by eye but there is an algorithm that helps them and makes their life a bit easier plus it checks also the databases from other areas. Once the program comes up with suggestions the researchers compare these by eye and make the final match.
The submitter of the pictures will then get an e-mail with the link to the Manta. On the Manta’s site you can see where it has been spotted before and other information. And the next time somebody uploads a picture of the same Manta Ray you will get an e-mail again. For us divers this is just a cool thing to see where the Manta Ray that we saw has travelled to, for the researchers on the other hand the pictures that are submitted are very important for their work. There are so many unknowns about Manta Rays and all these pictures can help to fill these knowledge gaps. Researchers hope to find out more about their age, how often they give birth, of course how far and how often they travel and many more things.
So what should the pictures look like that you upload?
They have a great site with instructions on exactly that, find a few tips from www.mantamatcher.org on what to look out for when you take pictures for the researchers. So next time you dive with Mantas remember to take a few belly shots and upload them.
Have you submitted your Manta Ray pictures to a researchers website? Let us know in the comments!