New species of ray discovered at Ningaloo

A new species of stingray (pictured, photograph courtesy of Jeremy Vaudo) has been discovered by scientists at Ningaloo Marine Park.

The discovery was made during a series of dive surveys conducted as part of a Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) project led by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) working with scientists from CSIRO.

It was one of 15 collaborative research projects now in full swing across Ningaloo Marine Park involving more than 60 scientists from seven State and Federal agencies and universities.

CSIRO scientist Will White said the discovery of the ray (Neotrygon sp.) highlighted that there was still much to learn about the sharks and rays that inhabited the Ningaloo coast.

“While this species appears to occur further south in Shark Bay and possibly also off the Northern Territory, the very specific habitat occupied by this ray means that careful monitoring and management is required,” Dr White said.

“These magnificent creatures are part of the maskray family and the five that we sighted during the lagoon surveys had an average wingspan between 20cm and 40cm, so they were a lot smaller than manta rays.”

DEC marine scientist Kelly Waples said the dive surveys had documented 40 species of wharks and rays, although it was estimated that as many as 118 species of sharks and rays lived in the marine park.

“Initial results from these surveys indicate that the marine park’s shark and ray populations are healthy and benefiting from zoning designed to protect representative populations,” she said.

“Satellite tags have also been used to track large predatory tiger and hammerhead shaks to find out whether they are residents or visitors to the marine park.”

Research at Ningaloo Marine Park is adding to the scientific knowledge now being gathered by by broader marine monitoring program along the entire WA coast.

“This example of research shows how crucial science is to understanding our marine areas, which helps governments and communities make decisions about their management,” WAMSI Chief Executive Officer, Dr Steve Blake, said.

Western Australia’s Environment Minister Donna Faragher and Federal Minister Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, released media statements on the discovery today. These are attached below.

Information for this article was supplied courtesy of DEC.