Population dynamics of the reef manta ray in eastern AustraliaPublished online in February 2014
Population dynamics of the reef manta ray Manta alfredi in eastern Australia
L. I. E. Couturier, C. L. Dudgeon, K. H. Pollock, F. R. A. Jaine, M. B. Bennett,
K. A. Townsend, S. J. Weeks, A. J. Richardson
The reef manta ray Manta alfredi aggregates at several sites along the east coast of Australia. Photographic identification and mark–recapture methods were used to report on the site affinity, size and structure of this population of M. alfredi. A total of 716 individuals were identified in 1982–2012, including 636 at Lady Elliot Island (LEI), southern Great Barrier Reef. Over 60 % of individuals identified were resighted at least once during the study period. Multiple resightings within and among years imply a high degree of site affinity by individuals to aggregation sites. One individual was sighted 11 times at LEI over a 30-yr period. The sex ratio of this population was significantly biased towards females (1.2:1 female-to-male ratio), and females were more commonly resighted than males. Robust design population models were used to estimate the population size of the winter aggregation at LEI over a 4-yr period. The models estimated up to 456 (95 % CI 399–535) M. alfredi individuals in the population within one winter season and a high annual apparent survival. This study demonstrated that waters around LEI form a key aggregation site for a large portion of the M. alfredi population in east Australian waters.
Coral Reefs, February 2014