Manta rays, like the majority of sharks and rays, give birth to live young but don’t have a placenta. How do they do it? In a study I wrote about for ScienceNOW, the researchers worked out part of the puzzle: how the developing baby ray gets oxygen.
I’m constantly surprised at the basic things we don’t know about big animals. Manta rays are huge. They can be 23 feet wingtip to wingtip. That’s bigger than a big SUV. But, as one of my sources explained, that’s part of the problem. They’re hard to keep in captivity and, more importantly, there’s no fishery on them. We know about whale biology because there’s a fishery (and there used to be a much bigger one), so scientists have had access to whales. That’s just not true for manta rays.
Read my story to find out how the scientists at a research-oriented aquarium in Okinawa got their hands on a pregnant female manta ray.
(You know what’s crazy? Some sharks and rays do have a placenta, or something a lot like it.)
photo of manta ray ultrasound: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium