Lagoon insights come from hearing’ rays

Atlantic whitespotted eagle rays are some of the most stunning, mysterious bottom feeders found in Florida. But until now little has been known of where they go, what they eat and their other sundry, barbarous ray ways.

But recently biologists listened to the Indian River Lagoon, carefully, and with sophisticated sound devices, they could hear the “voices” of the rays — fish that don’t speak but definitely have a story to tell. What scientists heard? Our lagoon is one of a ray’s favorite places.

While the researchers’ technological feat heralds new hopes of discovery, it also harkens back to old worries. The technology helps us to better to understand this otherwise mysterious creature that munches down lots of the same seafood we do. But by confirming that spotted rays really prefer inland waters like the lagoon, we now know the fish is in much greater danger of suffering from pollution than we previously thought.

“The animals on the east coast were spending significantly more time within the lagoon,” said Breanna DeGroot, first author on the study and a research coordinator at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. “That was pretty surprising. There’s potentially more prey in the IRL, so they’re able to spend more time in there.”

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