The crew of the Frankland Island Reef Cruises have been hip hip hoo-ray-ing at the return of one of the reef’s most unique species: the Manta Ray. These giant sea critters have been making almost daily appearances on the Frankland Island Cruises since the first one for the year was spotted on May 7th at the Frankland Islands.
One of the resident rays spotted is Sébastian, who’s name we can’t help but say in the voice of the Little Mermaid character. After all, it is the Great Barrier Reef and life is certainly “much better down where it’s wetter”. It’s the first time that Sébastian, aka number 899, has been spotted since 2015 and the crew were ray-ving about his return. It marks the first recorded example of a manta crossing called the east Australian current bifurcation.
But how exactly do the crew know that this particular ray is Sébastian? Each manta can be identified by a unique “thumbprint” consisting of its markings and colouration of its ventral surface (belly), which allows the team to track and research their movements and habits. Taking photographs of this part of the ray is integral to providing a record of the ray. This technique for tracking rays is called photo-identification and can help researchers understand the number of rays, the movement patterns between sites, the preferred sites and times of the year, how long the rays live for and their general behaviour.