Spotted Eagle Rays off Southwest FloridaDecember 13 2017
Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari) are a large pelagic ray (currently listed by the IUCN as Near-Threatened) that inhabits the estuaries and coastlines off Southwest Florida. Our current research at Mote Marine Lab includes tagging and tracking these amazing ocean flyers throughout these coastal waters and investigating diet. We propose to use a Trident ROV to collect video sightings of eagle rays in areas they aggregate to identify individuals by their unique spot patterns. Additionally we will explore areas that eagle rays frequent to define prey availability and habitat type. We currently involve high school and college student interns in our research and plan to introduce them to the Trident ROV as a tool to learn more about these large rays.
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Since 2009 Mote Marine Lab scientists and collaborators have been studying the biology, life history, population structure, diet and movement patterns of spotted eagle rays off Southwest Florida and in areas around Mexico, Cuba and east coast of Florida. This research has produced several publications to help better inform fisheries management and has provided important information on this data deficient species (see Bassos-Hull et al. 2014, Newby et al. 2014, Sellas et al. 2015, Flowers et al. 2016, Cerutti-Pereyra et al. 2017). We are excited about the possibilities of how a Trident ROV will augment and enhance our research, specifically looking at spotted eagle ray aggregations and habitat and prey availability.