After 5years of research, Andrea Marshall believes she has found a new species ofmanta ray. Andrea Marshall is an emerging figure in elasmobranch (shark andray) science, and has been based in Mozambique since2003. Her PhD research on the population ecology of manta rays, conductedthrough The University of Queensland in Australia (submitted in May 2008), isthe first ever doctoral thesis to be completed on this enigmatic species. A video of this manta and an interview with Andrea can be seen .
Previouslythere was believed to be only a single species of ray but genetic analysis nowshows there are at least two, and possibly three, species. The research, carried out by Andrea Marshall,who is sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation, distinguishes a larger andrarer type of manta as a new species. The species can reach a weight of 4500pounds (2 metric tons) with a pectoral fins “windspan” of 26 feet (8m). It appears to be more migratory and and elusive, than its smaller, morecommon cousin.
Manta raysare the largest of over 500 different species of rays and skates. Unlikestingrays, manta rays are harmless and do not possess a stinging barb. Theyfeed on plankton.