Manta ray photo identification
Photo credit: Amelia Armstrong

Photo identification (Photo ID) is the term used to track individual animals based on their unique body patterns.  Photographs of animals showing these provide a data record of when and where the animal was sighted. Manta rays have unique body patterns on their ventral surfaces (bellies). They are born with these markings and keep them through their lives.  Therefore photo-ID provides a ‘natural tag’ so that individual animals can be followed in space and time. Manta rays are curious animals and if they do not feel threatened they will spend considerable time around scuba and free divers in the water while generally undertaking their normal feeding or cleaning behaviours. This gives divers a great opportunity to photograph manta rays and to take those informative belly shots.