Mobula Munkiana Captured at Ensenada Grande, Baja California Sur

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The Mobula munkiana, also known as Munk’s Devil Ray, is the smallest of the manta ray family and is one of the most common devil ray species in the world. It is widely distributed from the eastern Pacific coast to the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

These rays have narrow heads, with horizontally flattened bodies and strong pointed wings that reach an average width of just over a meter from tip to tip. They are typically found in oceanic surface waters above the continental shelf and can be distinguished by their black or purplish-grey upper surfaces, white undersides, and strongly pointed wings with dark tips.

They are very social and often congregate in large aggregations up to thousands of individuals, most commonly for mating purposes. They are protected in Mexican waters under NOM-029-PESC-2006 and NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, but illegal fishing is a major concern for this species.

Mobula munkiana captures and life stage vary seasonally, with greater captures occurring during late summer and fall than during winter, spring, and early summer (Fig. 2, S1).

We monitored Mobula munkiana captures at Ensenada Grande in Baja California Sur from August 2017 to June 2018. Individuals were captured using encircling surface cotton twine nets 150 m long, 15 m deep with 25 cm mesh. Captured animals were evaluated and released 5 min after capture.

Pregnant and mating behavior were observed in our sampled population, with a female in an advanced state of pregnancy displaying distended abdominal region on both the dorsal and ventral surfaces. We also captured three males displaying courtship behaviors, including initiation and endurance (Supplementary Information Figure S2).

The mobula ray is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species29. They are nationally protected in Mexican waters under NOM-029-PESC-2006, but illegal targeted fishing is a serious problem for this species.

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