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Become a citizen scientist

Photograph manta rays for research

Where do manta rays go? How frequently do they visit known aggregation sites and how far do they travel? Photo identification (photo-ID) is one of the key research methods used by the Project Manta team to help answer some of these questions.

Project Manta relies heavily on water users who contribute photographs and videos, along with their manta ray observations, to the Project Manta database.

Manta rays have unique markings on their bellies

Individual manta rays can be recognised by their unique spot patterns (called ventral markings) found on their underside, in the same way human fingerprints are used to identify people.

Manta rays are intelligent, curious animals that will spend considerable time around scuba and free divers in the water if they don't feel threatened. This gives divers a great opportunity to photograph manta rays and take those informative ‘belly shots’ while they undertake their regular feeding or cleaning behaviours.

Diver photographing a manta ray underwater

Share your photo and video files with us

Meet, Taurus

He was first recorded by citizen scientist Peter Allen off Lady Elliot Island back in 1982, when he was already a mature male.

Project Manta encountered him in 2009 and since then we have recorded over 50 sightings of him via photo-ID, all from Lady Elliot Island. Given we know it takes at least 10 years for males to reach maturity, that means Taurus is at least 50 years old.

What photo ID can tell us 

Photo identification allows us to follow individual manta rays in the wild to find out information about:

  • population size and demography;
  • growth rates and age of maturity;
  • pregnancy and reproductive activity;
  • movements and habitat preferences;
  • incidence of injuries.
Photo credit: Jordan Robins

Donate to Project Manta

Your gift will help researchers to gather critical knowledge to conserve and provide management solutions for manta rays, our threatened gentle giants.

Read next

Find out more about Project Manta.

Genetics testing a manta ray
Research approaches

Find out more about our research methods and how each is contributing to what we know about manta rays.

Manta ray
Become a manta hero

Stay active in manta ray conservation by following Project Manta on social media to share your observations and to receive project updates from the team.

Manta ray swimming with fish
Project Manta aims

Project Manta is providing important baseline data to support the long-term conservation of manta rays and their relatives.

Contact the Project Manta team via social media, or by email.