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Scientists Discover First Nursery For Juvenile Manta Rays

If you’ve ever wondered where Manta Rays are raised, scientists recently found the first known nursery for them in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas.

Marine biology doctoral candidate Joshua Stewart, along with folks from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found a bunch of baby Mantas in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Stewart had been researching the manta ray population in the area and in 2016 saw a juvenile Manta, something not regularly seen.

After analyzing 25 years’ worth of dive logs and photos taken by sanctuary staff, Stewart and his colleagues determined that the average wingspan of the Mantas in the sanctuary was 7.38 feet/2.25 meters, well below the adult Manta’s wingspan of 20-plus feet (6 meters).

Stewart said:

“This discovery is a major advancement in our understanding of the species and the importance of different habitats throughout their lives. The juvenile life stage for oceanic mantas has been a bit of a black box for us, since we’re so rarely able to observe them. Identifying this area as a nursery highlights its importance for conservation and management, but it also gives us the opportunity to focus on the juveniles and learn about them.”

Check out Stewart’s and his colleagues’ findings in the Marine Biology journal.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.