of the largest, yet least-known of fishes, the
manta ray is found mainly in tropical waters throughout
the world. Australian Geographic staff writer
Liz Ginis travelled to Lady Elliot Island on the
Great Barrier Reef with photographer Mark Spencer
in Manta ray to follow an Australian Geographic-sponsored
study of the manta's behaviour and movements.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority marine
biologist, Mark Simmons and Australian Geographic
photo-journalists spent several weeks on Lady
Elliot Island capturing data and images of these
naturally inquisitive, marine creatures, that
can grow up to nine metres (29 feet) in diameter
(equal to the length of two family cars bumper
Research into the anatomy of the manta ray has
concluded that this graceful creature has one
of the largest brains of all fishes - which explain
the inquisitive nature of these creatures.
The research program also found that the reef
surrounding Lady Elliot Island is a permanent
home to a 40 strong population of manta rays.
The photographic story now graces the cover of
Australian Geographic (Issue 66 - out now). Copies
are available through Australian Geographic Retail
stores in Australia (price $14.95).
Simmons has nearly 20 years experience working
with Australia's native flora and fauna, particularly
on the Great Barrier Reef. For six of those years
he worked as a Marine Parks Ranger with the Queensland
National Parks & Wildlife Service, which allowed
him to specialise in underwater research, monitoring
Contact Mark Simmons
If you have a question about this research project,
send it via email to Mark at Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Authority. [click
Tagging in the waters surrounding Lady Elliot Island.
Photo Courtesy Australian Geographic
Manta rays are an enigma; little to nothing is
known of their range, breeding cycle, migratory
habits and social behaviour. Through this research
we hope to shed light on all of these things.
This project is a population ecology and home
range study of the manta
rays from the Lady Elliot Island area using photo-id
techniques and underwater tracking systems. Analysis
will also be undertaken of social interactions
within the species. Observations will also be
made, where possible, of human/manta interactions
in order to better develop guidelines for interacting
with these animals.