Individual manta rays are recognisable by a unique pattern of dark markings on the belly surface and by other permanent features such as shark bites.These spot-patterns can be used in photo-identification of rays for population analyses.

This methodology comprises taking photographs of a manta individual belly and comparing them with a photographic database to discover if this individual has been photographed previously, and if so, when and where has it been seen.

Photographs are generally analysed and individuals are matched by eye.

The ventral surface of the manta rays is the key area for identification:

3 key areas:

  1. Between the gill slits
  2. The belly 
  3. The pelvic fins (sex of the animal)


  • Any photo with these 3 key areas visible are perfect for identification
  • Any dorsal shots are also useful as it can show special pattern and bites that are recognizable