Manta look-alike found in Tubbataha waters in Palawan

interphoto_1426544178PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Biologists and researchers of the Large Marine Vertebrates (LAMAVE) Project Philippines identified a look-alike of the manta ray that is previously unrecorded in the waters of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in Cagayancillo.

A release from the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) obtained by the Philippine News Agency on Monday said LAMAVE biologist Ryan Murray has identified the manta look-alike as Mobula japanica from hundreds of video footages taken in the world-famous reefs since October last year.

He was reportedly able to identify the species from a video footage provided by Colin Swerdfeger, the boat manager of M/V Stella Maris Explorer.

The release, which was posted March 9 on the TRNP website said “the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest and oldest conservation organization in the world and the leading authority on the environment, has listed the Mobula japanica under the ‘Near Threatened’ category. Although found in both temperate and tropical seas, very little else is known of this species’ range.

The release added that “they range in size from .85m at birth to about 8m in maturity. Their age of maturity, longevity, reproductive period and other information on biology and life history is very limited. The Mobula japonica keeps its egg inside the mother’s body until it is ready to hatch. It gives birth to a single pup at a time and therefore has low reproductive potential.”

LAMAVE and the Tubbataha management said “the species is vulnerable to gillnets and its gill rakers are used for the Asian medicinal market”.

“Limited information hinders the conduct of a realistic population assessment and current harvest rates but increased catches observed worldwide is cause for great concern and requires urgent international conservation measures as the species is unlikely to be able to tolerate present levels of exploitation,” release further quoted.

The Tubbataha management stated further that “citizen science is making great strides in generating more understanding of the TRNP as a World Heritage Site, and that like Colin, everyone can contribute to research studies in the park.

The management of the famous reefs said anyone, who has videos or photographs of the species or any unusual sightings and occurrences may submit to their office for theirs might be another first.

LAMAVE is in Tubbataha to help study 19 species of elasmobranchs, or sharks and rays that have been seen in the reefs.

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