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Rapid wound healing in a reef manta ray masks the extent of vessel strike

McGregor, F., Richardson, A.J., Armstrong, A.J., Armstrong, A.O. and Dudgeon, C.L. (2019) Rapid wound healing in a reef manta ray masks the extent of vessel strike. PLoS ONE, 14 (12).

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Increasing vessel traffic in the marine environment due to commercial and recreational activities has amplified the number of conflicts with marine animals. However, there are limited multi-year observations of the healing rate of marine animals following vessel strike. Here we document the healing rate of a reef manta ray Mobula alfredi, following lacerations caused by a propeller along the pectoral fin. We demonstrate a high healing capacity, with wound length following a negative exponential curve over time. Lacerations healed to 5% of the initial wound length (i.e. 95% closure) within 295 days. The wounds appeared to stabilise at this point as observed more than three years following the incident and resulted in a distinctive scarring pattern. Examination of an extensive photo-identification catalogue of manta rays from the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area showed that the scarring pattern occurs more frequently than previously recognised, as the wounds had been previously attributed to failed predation attempts. This study provides baseline information for wound healing from vessel strike in reef manta rays and indirect evidence for increased vessel strikes on manta rays within the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. We discuss the implication for spatial and behavioural management of vessels around manta rays.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2019 McGregor et al.
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