Role of sensory cues on food searching behavior of a captive Manta birostris (Chondrichtyes, Mobulidae)

Zoo Biol. 2008 Jul;27(4):294-304. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20189.


This study reports on the first experimental research designed specifically for Manta birostris behavior. The authors attempted to learn about the feeding behavior and environmental cues influencing this behavior, as well as general cognitive ability. The preconditioned Manta's ability to identify food, on the basis of a fraction of the ordinary food signal complex, was tested. The opening of cephalic fins was considered a good indicator of feeding motivation level. The study subject animal used its biological clock to predict time and also associated a specific location with food, suggesting an ability to build up a cognitive map of its environment. Both underwater visual stimuli and olfactory stimuli had a very intense effect on food searching behavior over a 30 m distance, in contrast to visual signs from above the water surface. In addition, although an underwater visual signal resulted in a more intense response than from an olfactory signal, the specimen did not discriminate between different objects tested on the basis of visual sensation. It could therefore be suggested that food searching behavior of Mantas are governed by triggering stimuli, including smell or visual recognition, and modulated by the cognitive spatial map stored in their long-term memory. These findings will hopefully prove useful while devising protecting policies in the natural environment and/or while keeping these animals in captivity. Zoo Biol 27:294-304, 2008. (c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.