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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(3), 3138-3152; doi:10.3390/rs70303138

Unique Sequence of Events Triggers Manta Ray Feeding Frenzy in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia

1
Biophysical Oceanography Group, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
2
Manta Ray and Whale Shark Research Centre, Marine Megafauna Foundation, Praia do Tofo, Inhambane, Mozambique
3
Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
4
Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, EcoSciences Precinct, Dutton Park, Brisbane, QLD 4102, Australia
5
Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics (CARM), School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Raphael M. Kudela and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 16 December 2014 / Accepted: 10 March 2015 / Published: 18 March 2015
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Abstract

Manta rays are classified as Vulnerable to Extinction on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species. In Australia, a key aggregation site for reef manta rays is Lady Elliot Island (LEI) on the Great Barrier Reef, ~7 km from the shelf edge. Here, we investigate the environmental processes that triggered the largest manta ray feeding aggregation yet observed in Australia, in early 2013. We use MODIS sea surface temperature (SST), chlorophyll-a concentration and photic depth data, together with in situ data, to show that anomalous river discharges led to high chlorophyll (anomalies: 10–15 mg∙m−3) and turbid (photic depth anomalies: −15 m) river plumes extending out to LEI, and that these became entrained offshore around the periphery of an active cyclonic eddy. Eddy dynamics led to cold bottom intrusions along the shelf edge (6 °C temperature decrease), and at LEI (5 °C temperature decrease). Strongest SST gradients (>1 °C∙km−1) were at the convergent frontal zone between the shelf and eddy-influenced waters, directly overlying LEI. Here, the front intensified on the spring ebb tide to attract and shape the aggregation pattern of foraging manta rays. Future research could focus on mapping the probability and persistence of these ecologically significant frontal zones via remote sensing to aid the management and conservation of marine species. View Full-Text
Keywords: remote sensing; manta rays; frontal zones; sea surface temperature; chlorophyll; photic depth; eddy dynamics; river discharge; upwelling; Great Barrier Reef remote sensing; manta rays; frontal zones; sea surface temperature; chlorophyll; photic depth; eddy dynamics; river discharge; upwelling; Great Barrier Reef
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Weeks, S.J.; Magno-Canto, M.M.; Jaine, F.R.A.; Brodie, J.; Richardson, A.J. Unique Sequence of Events Triggers Manta Ray Feeding Frenzy in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 3138-3152.

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