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The Academy has teamed up with scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory studying the life history, fishery impacts and conservation genetics of spotted eagle rays and their near relatives. The overall goal of this research is to establish a conservation plan for spotted eagle rays in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Western Atlantic through collaborative research and international relationships. 

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Life History

The spotted eagle ray is considered a data deficient species and its distribution, migration, feeding habits, growth rates and reproductive biology are poorly defined. The objectives of our study focus on collecting important life history information including size, weight and sexual maturity status. Our program is the first to collect growth rates on recaptured free-ranging rays and this information is critical to guide management decisions for this species.

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Fisheries Impacts

Spotted eagle rays are harvested in targeted fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. The sustainability of these fisheries is in doubt given the life history and limited reproductive capacity of this species. Our research team is working with colleagues in Mexico and Cuba to better understand the impacts from these fisheries and to collect more information on life history and population structure. Working with fishermen towards a sustainable harvest is an important goal.

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Conservation Genetics

We are collecting DNA sequence and genotype data from spotted eagle rays in the Gulf of Mexico and northern Caribbean Sea in order to investigate the genetic structure and seasonal migration patterns of populations. In addition, we are collecting genetic samples from sympatric, near-relative species, such as the Atlantic devil ray and cownose ray. Comparing interspecific genetic diversity estimates will help us to evaluate the relative evolutionary response of these populations to changing environmental conditions and fishing pressures.

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Spotted Eagle Ray Research (RR standard)

SER Team Members

Kim Bassos-Hull
Mote Marine Laboratory

Robert Hueter
Mote Marine Laboratory
Center for Shark Research

Peter Hull
Mote Marine Laboratory
Center for Shark Research

Dean Dougherty
Mote Marine Laboratory
Center for Shark Research

Anna Sellas
Center for Comparative Genomics
California Academy of Sciences

Juan Carlos Pérez-Jiménez
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR)

Jorge Angulo
Center for Marine Research
University of Havana

Alexei Ruiz
Center for Marine Research
University of Havana

Matthew Ajemian
Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies
Texas A&M University