Divers spot manta rays for science

08 September, 2022

What started as a simple desire to understand more about oceanic manta rays (Mobula birostris) in the Red Sea led KAUST colleagues Anna Knochel and Alexander Kattan and co-workers to complete a survey of these creatures with the help of holiday snaps taken by members of the public on diving trips.

A silver lining of the pandemic was the opportunity provided by lockdowns to carry out this project. Unable to collect data in the field, the team had to find creative ways to gather the data that they needed. The lockdowns also provided the team, and the recreational divers who collaborated with them, with more time to sort through the data that they already had.

“As marine scientists, we cannot possibly be everywhere at once, and tagging and monitoring wide-ranging marine megafauna is a challenging and expensive business,” says Knochel. “Like many other divers, both Alex and I are enthralled by our encounters with oceanic manta rays. We recognized the challenges of investigating mantas in the Red Sea and decided to take a different approach to this initial survey.”

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Image: Alexander Kattan during an encounter with a manta ray in the Red Sea. ©Sami Kattan