Journal of Ethology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 167–174

Contingency checking and self-directed behaviors in giant manta rays: Do elasmobranchs have self-awareness?

Authors

    • Hyperbaric Biomedical Research Laboratory, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, Morsani College of MedicineUniversity of South Florida
    • Foundation for the Oceans of the Future
    • Manta Pacific Research Foundation
  • Dominic P. D’Agostino
    • Hyperbaric Biomedical Research Laboratory, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, Morsani College of MedicineUniversity of South Florida
    • Foundation for the Oceans of the Future
    • Manta Pacific Research Foundation
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10164-016-0462-z

Cite this article as:
Ari, C. & D’Agostino, D.P. J Ethol (2016) 34: 167. doi:10.1007/s10164-016-0462-z

Abstract

Elaborate cognitive skills arose independently in different taxonomic groups. Self-recognition is conventionally identified by the understanding that one’s own mirror reflection does not represent another individual but oneself, which has never been proven in any elasmobranch species to date. Manta rays have a high encephalization quotient, similar to those species that have passed the mirror self-recognition test, and possess the largest brain of all fish species. In this study, mirror exposure experiments were conducted on two captive giant manta rays to document their response to their mirror image. The manta rays did not show signs of social interaction with their mirror image. However, frequent unusual and repetitive movements in front of the mirror suggested contingency checking; in addition, unusual self-directed behaviors could be identified when the manta rays were exposed to the mirror. The present study shows evidence for behavioral responses to a mirror that are prerequisite of self-awareness and which has been used to confirm self-recognition in apes.

Keywords

Self-recognition Mirror test Comparative cognition Mobulidae Cognition

Supplementary material

View video

Movie 1: Manta ray is swimming through the OA in control conditions without the mirror. (WMV 3509 kb)

View video

Movie 2: Manta ray is swimming through the OA in control conditions after the mirror has been removed. (WMV 2666 kb)

View video

Movie 3: Manta rays perform repetitive turning, circling in front of the mirror. This behavior was performed for 6 min continously during this session. (WMV 4081 kb)

View video

Movie 4: Manta ray rolls cephalic fin and slows down when passing in front of the mirror (9–13 s). (WMV 4840 kb)

View video

Movie 5: Manta ray rolls cephalic fin in front of the mirror (1–3 s). Bubble blowing behavior is presented front of the mirror while displaying the ventral side and staying visually oriented (22–24 s). (WMV 4832 kb)

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2016