Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 100, Issue 11, pp 1435–1449 | Cite as

Summer and fall movement of cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, along the east coast of United States observed with pop-up satellite tags

  • Kristen L. Omori
  • Robert A. Fisher


Cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, is a common elasmobranch species along the southeast United States coast that recently has received negative attention. These rays can consume considerable amounts of commercial shellfish raising concerns regarding their control and need for effective management. However, limited information is known regarding their population abundance and migration patterns. We addressed the latter by reviewing 25 tagged cownose rays in Chesapeake Bay with pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) to study their movement patterns during summer and fall and identify wintering grounds. Eleven tags provided useful data on temperature, depth, light level and/or end locations. The migration tracks were deciphered through geolocation based on light levels, sea surface temperatures and depth constraints. PSAT end locations indicated southern wintering grounds in the coastal waters of central Florida. Female rays migrated out of Chesapeake Bay at the end of September to early October and continued their southerly migration to Florida. Male rays exited the bay in July and migrated northward based on their estimated movement tracks. The male rays appeared to have a second summer feeding ground off the coast of southern New England. In the fall, males migrated south from New England to the same wintering grounds as the females. No diel differences in habitat use were detected; however, males tended to occupy a wider depth and temperature range compared to females. Information on the movement patterns and habitat use for cownose rays will assist in determining more effective recreational and commercial management plans.


Batoid Electronic tags Movement patterns Migration routes Habitat use 



A special thanks to John Hoenig for providing partial funding for pop-up satellite archival tags and advice throughout the project. This study was made possible by haul seiner fishermen, John Dryden and George Trice, for their assistance with the collection of rays, and field support from the volunteers and students at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. We thank Benjamin Galuardi from National Marine Fisheries Service and Heather Baer and other members at Wildlife Computers for their programming support. All work with the capture, holding, tagging and release of cownose rays was conducted under the guidelines of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocols (IACUC-2012-07-09-8040-rafish). This research was carried out in part under the auspices of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, a cooperative institute of the University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (cooperative agreement NA15OAR4320064), Virginia Marine Resources Commission (Award Number V774310) and equipment trust funds from College of William & Mary. This paper is Contribution No. 3654 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA

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