Macquarie University
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Social organisation, social behaviour and collective movements in reef manta rays

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:54 authored by Robert James Yeandle Perryman
Obtaining data on elasmobranch movements and behaviours in marine environments is a considerable challenge, but is urgently required to implement species management plans. It is important to understand patterns and mechanisms of group formation and cohesion, including social organisation and collective behaviour, that are likely to be adapted to current selective environments. These are key aspects of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology that influence population structuring. Reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) are large and mobile pelagic elasmobranchs that occupy subtropical coastal areas in proximity to developing human populations. They form groups at shallow water aggregation sites, where they are vulnerable to exploitation and disturbance. In this thesis I show that M. alfredi: a) have structured societies with active social preferences between individuals, linked to site attachment; b) have strong behavioural heterogeneity that influences social dynamics; c) make gestural movements that may be a form of social communication; and d) alter their collective movements during foraging and courtship events. Our results suggest that conservation strategies should consider the social organisation and social behaviours of manta rays to better understand their spatial ecology and evolutionary dynamics, predict the impact of exploitation by fisheries, and mitigate disturbance from marine ecotourism. Local measures that consider groups as complex structures resulting from interactions between heterogenous individuals are likely to be most useful for ongoing management -- abstract.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General introduction -- Chapter 2. Social preferences and network structure in a population of reef manta rays -- Chapter 3. Reef manta ray social dynamics depend on individual differences in movements and site fidelity -- Chapter 4. Reef manta ray cephalic lobe movements are modulated during social and inter-specific interactions -- Chapter 5. Investigating manta ray collective movements via drone surveys -- Chapter 6. Summary, conservation implications and future directions.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Culum Brown

Additional Supervisor 1

Andrea Marshall


Copyright Robert James Yeandle Perryman 2021. Copyright disclaimer:




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