First observation on the mating behaviour of the marbled ray, Taeniurops meyeni, in the tropical Eastern Pacific
Elasmobranch reproductive behaviour remains understudied, particularly for batoids (rays). Most of the information available originates from opportunistic observations of mating scars in the wild and/or from individuals held in captivity. Here we describe the first complete mating sequence of the marbled ray (Taeniurops meyeni) in the wild. The event was filmed at Isla del Coco National Park in Costa Rica, in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. The complete sequence lasted approximately 3 hrs and is defined by the following behaviours: (1) close following or chasing: a group of males swim in a close formation chasing an individual female; (2) pre-copulatory biting: oral grasping of the female’s posterior pectoral fin by the males, with anterior bending of one clasper and rotation of the pelvic region towards the female’s cloaca; (3) copulation/ insertion of the male’s clasper followed by ‘ventral to ventral’ position and energetic thrusting of the male’s pelvic region; (4) post-copulatory behaviour: the male removes its clasper from the female’s cloaca while releasing her posterior pectoral fin and (5) separation: the male sets the female free and separates himself from the group. The mating behaviour described here shares some similarities with the few other studies of batoids in the wild and highlights the need to further understand their mating system to guide conservation plans for this vulnerable species.
KeywordsElasmobranch Batoids Reproduction Life-history Isla del coco
We thank the Undersea Hunter Group for allowing us to use this underwater video footage for our analyses. We also thank Dr. Florencia Cerutti and the crew of M/V Argo for their helpful comments on this manuscript. We are grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their financial support. This publication is contribution number 2213 of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands. This research was approved by the Charles Darwin Research Station Ethics Committee.
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