Manta_melanistic By Stevelaycock21 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Manta rays - it don't matter if they're black or white

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Many manta rays are white, some are black, and others sport funky black and white patterns, but their different colourations do not appear to be linked to avoiding being eaten by predators, according to Australian-led research. The scientists compared the survival rates of two different manta species with a range of different colours, and found colouration had no effect on survival. They suggest differing colours don't convey individual animals with any advantage or disadvantage in life, which is surprising, as often changes in an animals' coat pattern are linked to avoiding predators.

Journal/conference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1879

Organisation/s: The University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Macquarie University

Funder: A. Rooney, J. Artendale and E. Cameron.

Media Release

From: The Royal Society

It’s not all black and white: investigating colour polymorphism in manta rays across Indo-Pacific populations

Melanism, where increased pigmentation results in darker-coloured or black individuals, is rare in marine species. However, melanism occurs in both species of manta ray, the world’s largest rays. We used identification photographs of manta rays from around the world to catalogue locations where melanism occurs and begin to understand the evolutionary processes that act on this trait. In the Indo-Pacific, populations widely differed between 0-40% melanistic individuals. However, we found no difference in survival rates between melanistic and typical rays. This suggests that melanism is not influenced by predator interactions and the variation across populations is likely due to neutral genetic processes.

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