So you want to save a certain marine animal (lets call it a Bob) from extinction. There are many ways to approach this, but setting up a marine reserve to protect all the Bobs from overfishing/pollution/boat collisions in their own environment is a good start. That leads you to a whole set of questions.
- Do you design one mega reserve (costly but easier to manage) or a chain of smaller reserves (maybe at first cheaper but harder to control)?
- How do you measure the success of your reserve? The number of Bobs? Their health? Their size?
- Where do you put these reserves? Assuming you know only some of the behavior of Bobs – do you put them where the most Bobs are found? Or where Bobs most like to feed? Mate? Grow up?
When designing marine reserves and protecting a species, it is important to acknowledge their most vital habitats – one of which is nurseries. So let’s switch from Bobs to Rays.
A paper published in Environmental Biology of Fishes (free version of the article available here), shows evidence that rays in Ningaloo Reef have a designated nursery. Dr Florencia Cerutti and team in the Mark Meekan group tracked the movements of 16 rays to see if they were using Mangrove Bay on Ningaloo Reef, Australia, as a nursery.
Luckily this playground of rays and other marine animals, is already a marine reserve. But knowing that rays also use marine nurseries, along with doubtless other marine animals, provides stronger support for counting nurseries into any plans for protecting the oceans.
Infographic PDF available pdf.
P.S. if this has got you thinking about how climate change might impact nurseries, check out this infographic on how animals can react to environmental changes.
P.S.S. Artistic license alert – baby rays have their eyes on their dorsal (upper) side.