Diving with Manta Rays: Atlantic Giant Manta Encounter

DIVING WITH MANTA RAYS WAS SORT OF A DISTANT FANTASY. I just wanted to see them. The giant Atlantic mantas I had seen in the past were fast-moving and, mouths agape, totally focused on sweeping up the plankton they make their livings on. Suddenly here, there, gone. Spending extended time in close-up choreography with one of these gentle giants was not in my vision. Until it was. The dive was at Flower Garden Banks National

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Flower Garden Banks – A Manta Ray Nursery

MANTA RAYS ARE FOUND IN OCEANS WORLDWIDE, BUT MANTA RAY JUVENILES ARE RARELY SEEN. Except, it develops, in the newly recognized manta ray nursery in the Gulf of Mexico’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. When visiting manta specialist Josh Stewart told Flower Gardens staff he had spotted only the second juvenile he had ever seen, their response was: they see them all the time. Apparently, they assumed the smaller mantas were a different species

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Manta Ray Facts, by the Numbers

1)  THERE ARE TWO SPECIES OF MANTA RAYS – OCEAN MANTAS (MANTA BIROSTRIS) AND REEF MANTAS (MANTA ALFREDI). M. birostris is also sometimes known by the names giant ocean manta and Atlantic giant manta. Mantas are the largest members of the ray family and among the largest fishes in the sea. 2) Oceanic mantas are found worldwide, often reported as swimming great distances across oceans. They generally prefer tropical and subtropical waters. 3) Reef mantas are

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How Sharks Smell Blood – Superbly, But Not Miles Away

HOW SHARKS SMELL BLOOD IS FAR MORE INTERESTING than their mythical ability to detect the scent of “a drop of blood miles away.” Scientists disproved that legend long ago, although you may still find it in cheesy movies and on shark-week type reality shows. Sharks do have an amazing sense of smell, but their long-range detection capabilities are limited to several hundred yards rather than miles, many authoritative sources suggest. And one study suggests that

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The Shark Pup Hatching, from bioGraphic

HERE’S A REMARKABLE PHOTO OF A SHARK PUP HATCHING, published in the terrific science magazine bioGraphic. It’s a small spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula), caught just after its emergence from its egg casing. That’s its name – small spotted catshark – but the little shark has other common names, including lesser spotted dogfish. Recreational diver are not so likely to see one. S. canicula is a bottom-dweller at depths from 30 to 300 feet/10 to 300

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Here’s to Eugenie Clark – and “Genie’s Dogfish!” 

A NEWLY IDENTIFIED SPECIES OF SHARK has been named “Genie’s Dogfish” in honor of renowned marine biologist Eugenie Clark, a.k.a. the “Shark Lady.” It may be just coincidence that the news about “Genie’s Dogfish” came out just when the cable networks have resumed telling us that it’s totally unsafe to be in any ocean with any shark. But it’s fitting. Dr. Clark, who died in 2015 at age 92, was a pioneer in shark research

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Actual Shark Facts You Should Read on Shark Awareness Day

HAPPY SHARK AWARENESS DAY! I’m not sure who decreed it so but every July 14th is Shark Awareness Day. It’s a time to appreciate our cartilaginous fellow travelers on Planet Earth with a generous supply of actual shark facts. To judge by what we see on cable television, sharks are cold-blooded psychopaths always in a brutal frenzy of hunting man and beast, ready to grab a tasty arm or foot at the first opportunity. LESS

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Yellow Stingrays – Where’s Waldo?

WHERE’S WALDO? That might be the question this yellow stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis) hopes we’re asking, as it fluffs up sand to try to hide itself. In this case it didn’t work since we watched it approach and then proceed to bury itself – most ineffectively. YELLOW STINGRAY FACTS   U. jamaicensis typically measures 12 to 15 inches across, excluding the tail (although the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, which has yellow stingrays in its collection, says they

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Walk, Don’t Skate: Some Fishes “Walked” Way Before Land Animals Did

SCIENTISTS STUDYING A SPECIES OF RAYS CALLED LITTLE SKATES have demonstrated that walking capabilities had developed in fishes dwelling on the seabottom millions of years before the first marine animals climbed out of the oceans to become air-breathing, leg-walking land dwellers. And they show how they moved with a video of modern little skates – little skate is the fish’s common name, not just a description – do it, utilizing a set of fins to

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Grass-Eating Sharks. Really.

SHARKS’ REPUTATION AS FIERCE, MAN-EATING APEX PREDATORS of the oceans takes a hit when you consider the bonnethead shark (Sphyrna tiburo), a small variety of hammerhead found mostly in warm waters along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines of North and South America. Along with their normal carnivorous diet, bonnetheads eat grass, as in seagrass. How much grass? It accounts for as much as 62 percent of its gut content in some juvenile populations. The bonnetheads’

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