African Journal of Marine Science

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The frequency and effect of shark-inflicted bite injuries to the reef manta ray Manta alfredi

AD Marshall, MB Bennett


Shark bite injuries on reef manta rays Manta alfredi off the coast of Inhambane, Mozambique, were examined over a three-year period (2003–2006). The frequency and seasonality of attacks, the rate of wound healing, and the possible identities of attackers were explored. This study presents the first examination of bite wounds on manta rays in the wild and the role sharks may play in the natural mortality of this species. The reported incidence of shark-inflicted injuries is high with over threequarters of the sampled population affected. In total, 571 bite injuries were observed on 283 identified individuals. The number of bite injuries varied from one to seven, with a mean of 1.54 bite wounds. There was no significant difference in the frequency of bite injuries in male and female rays. The majority (96%) of the observed bite wounds were healed. Fresh wounds occurred throughout the year, with no obvious seasonality. The bull shark Carcharhinus leucas and tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier are suggested as the primary mediators of attacks, although up to 11 other shark species are listed as potential attackers. The majority of the bite marks (96%) occurred to the most posterior region of the body, specifically the posterior edges of the pectoral and pelvic fins, with many injuries likely having a negative impact on the reproductive abilities and fitness of the rays.

Keywords: bite mark, manta rays, Mozambique, predation, shark attack, wound healing

African Journal of Marine Science 2010, 32(3): 573–580
AJOL African Journals Online