|Rapid coloration changes of manta rays (Mobulidae)|In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0024-4066, more
Cephalopterus giorna; Manta birostris (Walbaum, 1792) [WoRMS]; Marine
adaptive; Atlantic; behavioural ecology; Cephalopterus giorna; Manta birostris; Manta sp. cf. birostris; marine conservation; natural markings; photo-identification; species classification; visual communication
Changes of body coloration have not been described in manta rays (genus Manta) so far; therefore, their natural body coloration is used to distinguish species and their ventral spot markings are used to identify individuals worldwide to estimate their population size or seasonal migration. The present study describes the first evidence of rapid coloration changes of manta rays based on observations of captive individuals. Body coloration changes were observed most intensely on the dorsal surface and on the head, which occurred within minutes prior to feeding and during intense social interactions. The coloration intensity drastically changed for the white markings of the shoulder bars, the chevron-shaped marking on the back, the dorsal side of fin tips, the area around the eyes, the upper margin of mouth, and the inner side of cephalic fins. Three out of five of the captive specimens have been identified as a putative third manta ray species, and detailed description about their rapid coloration changes is provided. The present observational study confirms the ability of manta rays to rapidly change body coloration during exposure to certain environmental stimuli. Understanding the dynamics of these rapid coloration changes is essential for accurate species identification and to perhaps gain insight into more advanced forms of communication.