Manta rays are vulnerable to extinction, but there are few known nursery habitats for them.
When Jessica Pate first saw the huge black shapes swimming close to shore in Palm Beach County, Florida, she didn’t know what they were. The shadowy forms were manta rays. Even though Pate was studying sea turtles at the time, and that meant she was constantly on the beach, she didn’t even realize that there were manta rays in Florida. She also soon learned no one else was studying them. Eager to find out more, she convinced a friend to take her out on the water to search for the rays.
On that first expedition, Pate and her friend closed-in on an immense black shape in the teal water. The closer they got, the more the ray came into focus: broad, pointed wings, and cephalic fins that protrude from the head like antennae.