‘Mysterious giant of marine world’ released for research

‘Mysterious giant of marine world’ released for research

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‘Mysterious giant of marine world’ released for research

Photo: BVS Bahamas for Atlantis, Paradise Island

A 700-pound manta ray with a wingspan of more than 11 feet was tagged and then released into the Atlantic Ocean from an aquarium at the Atlantis, Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas as part of its release-and-research program.

The manta ray named Leyley is the 13th to be released from the resort’s 2.7 million-gallon marine habitat that is part of Atlantis’ extensive marine programs.

On Thursday, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists were among the 20 who helped successfully transfer Leyley in a hand-woven net on a custom-engineered frame designed to hold the weight of the largest known species of ray.

Once settled in the net, the manta ray was raised by helicopter and, 105 seconds later, safely lowered into the ocean where it took off equipped with a satellite tag.

“As part of its multi-year research efforts in tagging manta rays, Mote will track Leyley’s journey and the depths and temperatures she encounters, to help understand the migratory behavior and survival of released mantas,” Hayley Rutger of Mote wrote.

“This data will be valuable not only to Atlantis in their care for mantas, but to many aquariums, marine researchers and educators, as they work in tandem to learn more about this one-of-a-kind, mysterious giant of the marine world.”

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

A team of more than 165 marine experts rescue, rehabilitate and care for marine animals at Atlantis, and contribute to the research of over 250 species.

“We are thrilled to tag and track our sixth manta ray in partnership with Atlantis,” Dr. Robert Hueter, senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., said. “We are outfitting this animal with two tags to gather finer-scale data on immediate post-release behavior and acquire some longer-term migration data. We look forward to tracking this animal’s journey and sharing it with the world.”

More from Mote Marine Laboratory, detailing previous manta ray releases:

2008:  Zeus was released from the Atlantis aquarium and was tracked for one month, during which this manta traveled to the U.S. Atlantic coast in waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
2011:  Apollo was released from Atlantis and tracked for three months, during which this manta traveled to waters off Cape Canaveral, Florida.
2013:  Poseidon was released and tracked for nearly four months and traveled through the Gulf of Mexico to the Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana.
2013:  Athena was released and tracked for three months to the northeast coast of Cuba.
In 2013, another manta ray tagged by Mote in Gulf of Mexico waters off Sarasota, Florida, was tracked for a month and traveled south to waters off Sanibel Island.

Top photo shows Leyley about to be tagged and released into the Atlantic Ocean. Photo courtesy of BVS Bahamas for Atlantis, Paradise Island. Generic, second photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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